BP and Shell Funded Group Was Sunak Government’s Most Popular Think Tank in 2023

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Original article by Andrew Kersley republished from DeSmog.

An Onward event at the 2022 Conservative Party conference featuring Cabinet minister Michael Gove. Credit: PA Images / Alamy

Ministers met with Onward, accused of being “a fossil fuel dinosaur in new clothing”, more than any other think tank last year.

An oil and gas funded group had the most registered meetings with government ministers among all think tanks last year, DeSmog can reveal.

Onward describes itself as a think tank bringing “bold and practical ideas for the centre right”. Since its launch in 2018 it has gone through a meteoric rise, quickly becoming one of Westminster’s most influential think tanks.

DeSmog analysed the meetings of every government department in 2023 and found that ministers met with the group on 17 occasions across the year, an average of well over once a month and more than any other think tank.

Onward doesn’t disclose full details of its funding but unlike many think tanks it publicly shares the list of organisations that have donated “more than £5,000 twice a year” to the group.

Its list of funders in the first half of 2023 included several oil and gas giants, including Shell, BP, and Equinor. These three companies are also listed as members of Onward’s ‘Business Network’, which is open to those who donate £12,000 a year. In exchange, Onward says that it offers its members quarterly “invitations to private roundtables with senior policymakers and opinion formers”.

Onward offers other perks to its Business Network members, including the opportunity to see its reports before they are published, though it insists that donors are precluded from influencing the contents of its publications.

In the second half of the year, Onward also received funding from Lord Michael Spencer, a Tory mega-donor and former party treasurer who holds shares in oil and gas companies.

Onward’s corporate supporters included Drax, the UK’s largest single source of CO2 emissions. Drax is the operator of a major wood pellet burning power station in Yorkshire that receives billions of pounds in government environmental subsidies despite producing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions a year while burning trees from historic woodlands.

“Onward might sound progressive, but it looks suspiciously like a fossil fuel dinosaur in new clothing,” Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer told DeSmog.

“With so much fossil fuel money oiling the wheels of Westminster it is small wonder the Tories are maxing out oil and gas licences and have granted approval for Rosebank, the largest undeveloped oilfield in the North Sea.

“It’s time to break the links between government and fossil fuel funded think tanks and engage instead in a bit of blue sky thinking.”

Onward’s meetings in 2023 included two with ministers from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), which is responsible for the government’s climate policies. 

One of those meetings, held in June with Net Zero Minister Andrew Bowie, was to discuss the role of hydrogen in the transition to net zero.

Though it’s widely acknowledged that hydrogen will have a role in decarbonising some industrial processes, it has become the subject of growing controversy. Experts have warned that exaggerating the potential of the technology risks delaying climate action by distracting from the transition to renewable energies. Hydrogen is favoured by gas companies, as it is often made using natural gas and deploys existing infrastructure. 

As a result, hydrogen continues to be the subject of a major lobbying effort in Westminster.

Vested interests, including oil and gas companies, have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in recent years sponsoring political party conferences and parliamentary advocacy groups, advocating for the role of hydrogen in the clean energy transition. 

UK gas infrastructure operator National Gas hosted an Onward event at the 2023 Conservative conference on the UK’s “need” for hydrogen, entitled “Gassed up”.

An Onward spokesperson said that as a not-for-profit organisation the group relies “entirely on the generosity of our network to support our research programme”, which allows the group to “routinely meet and share our research with government and shadow ministers”.

They stressed that they “do not take commissions from companies or government for specific pieces of research” giving the group “complete editorial control over our priorities and conclusions”.

Onward and Tufton Street

Onward is currently led by former Financial Times journalist Sebastian Payne, who is attempting to become a Conservative parliamentary candidate. 

The think tank’s advisory board and board of directors are manned by Conservative MPs and peers, former Conservative Party treasurers, and business figures. Current Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho was a member of the Onward advisory board prior to her appointment to the Cabinet. 

When Rishi Sunak became prime minister in October 2022, it was reported that Onward alumni had taken up several advisory posts in his government – the second highest number of any think tank. Sunak’s deputy chief of staff Will Tanner, who leads on policy, is the co-founder and former director of Onward. 

Onward alumni were only outnumbered by former staff members of Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank that formerly employed Sunak. Policy Exchange has received funding from fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil, and has been credited by Sunak for helping to draft laws that have cracked down on climate protests. DeSmog has also revealed that Shell and BP were allowed “ample opportunity” to shape a Policy Exchange report on carbon taxes that was later endorsed by Sunak’s government. 

Over the last year, the prime minister has also overseen a row-back of several key climate pledges. In July, Sunak confirmed that his government planned to issue hundreds of new oil and gas licences, a move condemned by opposition MPs and charities. Oxfam’s climate policy adviser Lyndsay Walsh said the move “will send a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate commitments”.

Sunak has said his government intends to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves, and has legislated to introduce annual North Sea licensing rounds. This is despite the International Energy Agency stating that new fossil fuel exploration is “incompatible” with the Paris Agreement target of limiting global heating to 1.5C. 

Regulators also approved government plans for the development of the controversial Rosebank oil field, operated by Equinor, even though the project has been dubbed a “carbon bomb” by environmental law charity ClientEarth.

In September, the government scrapped a number of net zero pledges, including pushing back a ban on the sale of combustion engine vehicles, and weakening plans to phase out gas boilers.

Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss had close ties to a number of “free market” think tanks based in and around 55 Tufton Street, Westminster. This included the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), a think tank that was funded by BP for at least 50 years. Former IEA director general Mark Littlewood said that Truss had spoken at IEA events more than “any other politician over the past 12 years”, and the pair have now launched the group Popular Conservatism to lobby for more libertarian policies.

DeSmog found that the IEA met with ministers on nine occasions in 2023, almost half as many as Onward.

Original article by Andrew Kersley republished from DeSmog.

Continue ReadingBP and Shell Funded Group Was Sunak Government’s Most Popular Think Tank in 2023

Week of Protests Over Equinor’s Media Sponsorship Greenwashing

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Original article by Adam BarnettPhoebe Cooke and Ellen Ormesher republished from DeSmog

Eldar Saetre, CEO of Equinor. Credit: Jeff Gilbert / Alamy

Campaigners likened the fossil fuel company’s patronage of climate events to letting an “arsonist sponsor a fire safety conference”.

Major media companies have sparked a wave of criticism after allowing a Norwegian oil and gas company behind the UK’s largest new North Sea project to sponsor events on climate change.

Equinor was an official sponsor of two conferences on climate and energy this week, one run by the New Statesman magazine, and one run by Politico. Both saw MPs pull out over the sponsorship, while the first was interrupted by a climate activist. 

The Norwegian state-owned company has a majority stake in the Rosebank North Sea oil field, which has been dubbed a “carbon bomb” by environmental law charity ClientEarth. 

Equinor claims it supplies 27 percent of the UK’s energy from oil and gas, and is currently investing $6 billion (£4.8 billion) a year in fossil fuel exploration and drilling.

“Allowing fossil fuel companies like Equinor to sponsor and speak at climate conferences is as absurd as allowing an arsonist to sponsor and participate in fire safety conferences,” said Carys Boughton of the Fossil Free Parliament campaign. “At this critical time for climate and energy policy-making, we can’t afford this absurdity.”

Equinor’s sponsorship of these events is the latest example of fossil fuel companies using media partnerships to greenwash their polluting activities. 

An investigation by DeSmog and Drilled in December detailed how oil and gas companies are using media deals – including partnerships with Politico, the Economist, the Financial TimesReuters, and the Washington Post – to present a climate-friendly image. 

DeSmog also revealed this week, based on documents released by a powerful U.S. congressional committee, that fossil fuel companies believe these media partnerships help to protect their “social licence to operate”.

Michelle Amazeen, a mass communications researcher at Boston University, said that oil and gas sponsorship is “a strategic move by fossil fuel companies to compromise the integrity of events intended to foster dialogue and action around climate issues”. 

She added that, “While the sponsorship gives the impression of caring about the environment, it’s a veneer that’s like an oil slick obscuring the actual conduct of the fossil fuel industry.”

This week, a cross-party group of 50 MPs, including three Conservatives, wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to end the licensing of new oil and gas fields, appoint a climate envoy, and back the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, an international coalition working to facilitate a global phase-out of oil and gas production.

Alice Baxter, Equinor’s UK spokesperson, said: “At Equinor we believe in openness and the importance of engaging in the complex conversations around the energy transition. We respect everyone’s right to protest and encourage robust debate.”

New Statesman Event 

Equinor was one of the sponsors of the New Statesman’s Energy and Climate Change Conference on 14 May at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in south London.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas pulled out of the event last week due to Equinor’s sponsorship.

At the event, attended by DeSmog, the second panel discussion featured Equinor’s UK country manager Alex Grant. The session was entitled “How can the UK lead the world in the green transition?”

When it was Grant’s turn to speak, a Fossil Free London activist in the audience stood up and gave a speech criticising Equinor and its sponsorship of the event.

The activist said climate scientists “are warning us that we are headed towards a catastrophic 2.5C of global warming. Yet staggeringly, Equinor, that’s sponsoring this event, is opening the largest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea.” 

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee and was on the panel, interjected: “Why don’t you let us talk about it, because I’m actually here to be pretty critical of the government, I’d quite like to get my points across.” 

The protester continued her speech, and was removed by security. Her comments received a round of applause from the audience. 

Grant replied by saying that Equinor takes a “pragmatic approach” to the energy transition, as opposed to one that “costs more than it needs to”. He also defended the Rosebank project, saying it would reduce carbon emissions over the long term.

Rosebank could produce around 300 million barrels of oil over its lifetime, emitting 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

Questions at the New Statesman event were submitted online, rather than asked in person by the audience. 

During the event’s final session with Chris Stark, the former chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on its climate policies, DeSmog submitted a question about Equinor and Rosebank’s impact on the climate. The question was not posed to the panel. 

The latest issue of the New Statesman magazine, which features an interview with climate scientist and author Michael Mann, includes advertorials from biomass company Drax, which is the UK’s largest single source of CO2 emissions, and Calor Gas, one of the UK’s largest suppliers of liquefied petroleum gas.

The New Statesman hosted a number of events at the 2023 Labour Party conference sponsored by fossil fuel companies and lobbying groups, including Cadent, National Gas, and Offshore Energies UK

The New Statesman did not respond to DeSmog’s request for comment. 

Politico Event

On 16 May, Politico held its own Energy and Climate Summit, also sponsored by Equinor. 

Labour MP Alex Sobel, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Net Zero, last week pulled out of the event due to Equinor’s sponsorship. 

At the event, attended by DeSmog, a panel on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) featured David Cairns, a former British ambassador to Sweden and now Equinor’s vice president of political and public affairs. 

When questioned by the Politico chair, Cairns confirmed that the company had no plans to set targets for phasing out oil and gas.

He also said it was “debatable” whether the oil and gas industry was making large profits. Equinor reported £28 billion in profits in 2023. Cairns added that it was “really misplaced” to think that the oil and gas industry is an “easy business in which it’s easy to make money”.

A Politico spokesperson said: “This multi-sponsored Energy and Climate UK Summit is an extension of Politico’s ongoing and robust coverage of climate policy in the United Kingdom. 

“There is a clear division between Politico’s newsroom and our commercial operations. With critical milestones and a general election on the horizon, we continue to cover climate each day through our dedicated reporting.”

Politico’s influential London Playbook newsletter has this week been sponsored by the oil and gas giant BP. 

Michelle Amazeen said that fossil fuel sponsorship of media companies “has delegitimised their journalistic content, opened their journalists up for attack, and has even led to the resignation of journalists who are trying to write about climate issues”.

Equinor’s AGM 

Equinor also faced further public criticism this week, when on Tuesday the company was confronted by a climate activist at its annual general meeting (AGM).

Lauren MacDonald of the environmental group Uplift delivered a four minute speech about the company’s impact on the planet, and promised that campaigners would not stop opposing Rosebank or the company’s other fossil fuel projects.

At the meeting, shareholders rejected a resolution calling on the company to align its strategy and spending with climate goals.

“We invest in the energy the world needs now. That is oil and gas,” Equinor’s chief executive Anders Opedal said.

Tessa Khan, executive director at Uplift, told DeSmog: “Try as it might, Equinor can no longer ignore the scale of opposition to its climate-wrecking business model – it’s not just campaigners who are calling out its harmful mission, it’s also politicians pulling out of Equinor-sponsored events and shareholders demanding it ditch its plans of endless oil and gas expansion.

“Even if Equinor wants to stay silent, these demands for accountability will only get louder. Governments in the UK and Norway – who can’t afford to ignore this chorus of voices – must reject Equinor’s delay tactics and insist that their activities don’t further endanger our climate. As a first step, this means rejecting new oil and gas fields, and pulling the plug on disastrous projects like Rosebank.”

All-Energy and Dcarbonise

Equinor was not the only fossil fuel company to sponsor climate events this week. 

On Wednesday, climate protesters disrupted the All-Energy and Dcarbonise event in Glasgow, which describes itself as “The meeting place for the renewable and low carbon energy community”, yet featured paid exhibitions from oil and gas majors BP and Shell. 

Protesters from Stop Polluting Politics, and Fuel Poverty Action interrupted a speech by Scotland’s Net Zero and Energy Secretary Màiri McAllan, and a pre-recorded video of UK Energy and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho. Both appeared alongside Louise Kingham, a senior vice president at BP. 

“As the lethal reality of climate breakdown becomes unmissable, the PR strategies of big fossil fuel companies like Equinor and Shell reveal their growing isolation, and an increasingly desperate attempt to buy friends,” said Andrew Simms, a director of the New Weather Institute and a co-founder of the Badvertising campaign.  

“They are the unwelcome guests at the party with everyone waiting for them to leave, but who keep buying rounds for anyone willing to drink with them in order to stay.”

Original article by Adam BarnettPhoebe Cooke and Ellen Ormesher republished from DeSmog

Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.
Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.
Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil's You May Find Yourself... art auction. Featuring Rishi Sunak, Fossil Fuels and Rupert Murdoch.
Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil’s You May Find Yourself… art auction. Featuring Rishi Sunak, Fossil Fuels and Rupert Murdoch.
Continue ReadingWeek of Protests Over Equinor’s Media Sponsorship Greenwashing

Stop Rosebank address Equinor CEO

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It’s not displaying properly for some reason but well worth trying to watch Stop Rosebank appearing at the Equinor AGM.

Watch Lauren’s powerful intervention

Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.
Rishi Sunak on stopping Rosebank says that any chancellor can stop his huge 91% subsidy to build Rosebank, that Keir Starmer is as bad as him for sucking up to Murdoch and other plutocrats and that we (the plebs) need to get organised to elect MPs that will stop Rosebank.
Continue ReadingStop Rosebank address Equinor CEO

Prospective GB News Board Member is Fossil Fuel Investor

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Original article by Adam Barnett and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog.

Conservative peer and prospective GB News board member Lord Theodore Agnew. Credit: GB News / YouTube

Lord Agnew is a shareholder in Equinor, the Norwegian oil and gas firm behind the ‘carbon bomb’ Rosebank oil field.

A Conservative peer who is expected to join the board of broadcaster GB News has shares in Equinor, the oil and gas multinational behind the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea. 

According to his parliamentary register of interests, Lord Theodore Agnew has shares of at least £100,000 in Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned energy producer. Equinor has a majority stake in the Rosebank North Sea oil field, which has been dubbed a “carbon bomb” by environmental law charity ClientEarth. 

Agnew is set to replace hedge fund millionaire Paul Marshall on the board of GB News’s parent company All Perspectives Ltd, according to Sky News. 

Marshall is one of the key backers of GB News, holding a 45 percent stake in the company. He is reportedly planning to step back from GB News in order to launch a bid for the Telegraph Media Group, which includes The Telegraph newspaper and The Spectator magazine. 

His withdrawal could potentially throw GB News into turmoil. The startup broadcaster has lost £76 million since its launch in 2021 and relies on the resources of Marshall and its other big stakeholder, UAE-based investment firm Legatum, to survive. Sky News reported that GB News is now preparing to make job cuts as part of a “corporate reorganisation”.

This may have implications for how climate change is covered in the UK. An investigation by DeSmog found that one in three GB News presenters had spread climate science denial on air in 2022, while more than half had attacked climate action.

“It comes as no surprise that members of the GB News board have ties to the oil and gas industry, given the way its presenters have championed continued oil and gas expansion,” said Tessa Khan, director of environmental non-profit Uplift. 

Agnew, a former Cabinet Office minister under Boris Johnson, was in October appointed chair of UnHerd Ventures, another Marshall media vehicle. The company runs UnHerd, a publication founded in 2017 to give a platform to marginalised views.

Agnew also has shares in Carbon Plus Capital, a private investment company which specialises in carbon offsetting “based on the protection of forests”. This involves companies paying to plant trees to “offset” their greenhouse gas emissions. 

Carbon offsetting is a controversial idea that has been criticised by climate campaigners as a form of greenwashing. An investigation published last year by newspapers The Guardian, Die Zeit and non-profit SourceMaterial found that 90 percent of rainforest carbon offsets approved by the world’s largest certifier Verra were “largely worthless” and could actually increase global heating. 

Carbon Plus Capital partner Robin Warwick Edwards is a trustee of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank and the chair of its advisory council. The IEA, a free market group that has advocated for more fossil fuel extraction, received funding from BP for at least 50 years. 

Agnew and Edwards declined to comment. GB News did not respond. 

“Climate denial and investment in the fossil fuel industry go hand in hand”, said Carys Boughton of campaign group Fossil Free Parliament. 

“It makes complete sense that an expected new board member of GB News – a channel absolutely committed to attacking climate science and policy at every turn – is invested in Equinor, a company that, according to research by Oil Change International, ranks eighth worst in the world for its commitment to expanding oil and gas production.”

She added: “By spreading disinformation about the climate crisis, GB News is feeding into the fossil fuel industry’s licence to operate and thus helping to line the pockets of the industry’s shareholders.”

GB News in Turmoil

GB News hosts regularly attack climate policies and the science behind them. 

Numerous GB News presenters have also been vocal about their support for policies that would maintain and even extend the UK’s reliance on oil and gas. 

On 9 December 2022, host Mark Dolan praised West Cumbria Mining’s plan to open a new coal mine in Cumbria. He said the UK should “drill, baby, drill” for coal, oil and gas,  adding: “I think the push for net zero here is another element of liberal progressivism which is infecting the West.”

DeSmog revealed in October that Marshall Wace, the hedge fund run by Paul Marshall, had £1.8 billion invested in fossil fuel companies as of June 2023. This included Chevron, Shell, Equinor, and 109 other fossil fuel companies. 

Marshall reportedly invested £10 million in GB News when it first launched two years ago and, in August 2022, joined the Dubai-based investment firm Legatum Group in a £60 million capital injection and buyout of GB News’s other major investor, Discovery. 

If he joins the All Perspectives board, Agnew would become the latest Conservative politician to be adopted by the right-wing broadcaster. GB News hosts include Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was business and energy secretary under Liz TrussLee Anderson, a former Tory deputy chair who defected to anti-net zero party Reform UK last month, as well as Conservative MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies.  

The All Perspectives board also includes Tory peer Baroness Helena Morrissey and George Farmer, a Reform UK donor and the son of Conservative peer Lord Michael Farmer. 

GB News reported losses of £42 million in the year to May 2023, and £76 million since its launch in 2021. This comes as rival populist channel TalkTV is closing its TV operation and switching to YouTube, having suffered losses of £90 million since it launched in 2022. 

Agnew’s appointment has not been confirmed by Marshall, Agnew or the company. 

“With advertisers steering clear, GB News is haemorrhaging cash – yet they continue to push misleading messages on climate change,” said Richard Wilson, director of the Stop Funding Heat campaign.  

“In the last month alone, GB News commentators have claimed climate change is a ‘social mania’, dismissed climate harms as ‘hypothetical’, and attacked United Nations warnings about the need for urgent climate action as ‘hysteria’.

“Now we learn that a prospective GB News board member has fossil fuel investments”.

He added: “Britain urgently needs a media that supports the public interest – not the interests of a toxic industry that is putting all of our futures at risk”.

Fossil Fuel Projects

Equinor claims it supplies 27 percent of the UK’s energy from oil and gas, and is currently investing $6 billion (£4.8 billion) a year in fossil fuel exploration and drilling. It also says that it powers one million homes in Europe via renewable offshore wind. 

Rosebank is the UK’s largest undeveloped oil and gas field, and could produce around 300 million barrels of oil over its lifetime, emitting 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

In October, DeSmog revealed that Equinor urged the UK government to help promote the oil and gas industry, and was one of several companies which lobbied to water down the windfall tax on oil and gas company profits following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The UK government controversially approved the Rosebank project in September, despite the International Energy Agency stating that new oil and gas exploration is incompatible with the ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas labelled the decision “morally obscene”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used his address at the COP28 climate summit in December to claim that “climate politics is close to breaking point”, while stating that the UK will meet its net zero targets, “but we’ll do it in a more pragmatic way, which doesn’t burden working people”.

However, a 2023 court case found that the government’s plans only added up to 95 percent of the reductions needed to meet its net zero targets. The Conservative government has said it plans to “max out” the UK’s North Sea oil and gas reserves.

Tessa Khan added: “Those pushing for new oil and gas drilling, whether that’s the UK government, GB News or Equinor, are making things worse for the millions struggling with high energy bills and for those now struggling to cope with the impacts of climate change such as UK farmers – and all just to make a few oil and gas companies and their shareholders even richer.”

DeSmog has previously revealed that the Conservative Party received £3.5 million in donations from fossil fuel interests and climate science deniers in 2022, while two-thirds of the directors in charge of the party’s multi-million-pound endowment fund have a financial interest in oil, gas, and highly polluting industries.

Original article by Adam Barnett and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog.

Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil's You May Find Yourself... art auction. Featuring Rishi Sunak, Fossil Fuels and Rupert Murdoch.
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Continue ReadingProspective GB News Board Member is Fossil Fuel Investor

‘North Sea Fossil Free’: Activists in 6 Countries Protest ‘Unhinged’ Oil and Gas Development

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Original article by OLIVIA ROSANE republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

The “oil slicks” performance artist group demonstrates the impacts of a potential oil spill on Scotland’s Moray Firth as part of a North Sea-wide day of action on March 16, 2024.  (Photo: XR Forres)

“Going full steam ahead with new North Sea oil and gas is a sure fire route to the worst climate scenarios,” one campaigner said.

Climate activists in six North Sea countries came together on Saturday to carry out acts of civil disobedience in protest of their governments’ continued fossil fuel development.

Demonstrators in the United KingdomNorway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands blockaded roads, ports, and refineries; dropped banners; and held solidarity concerts as part of the North Sea Fossil Free campaign to demand that their governments align their plans for the shared body of water with the Paris agreement goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

“For too long, the U.K., Norway, and other North Sea countries have avoided scrutiny for their oil drilling plans as the emissions are not included in their national inventories,” a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion U.K. told Common Dreams. “Going full steam ahead with new North Sea oil and gas is a sure fire route to the worst climate scenarios.”

“The only serious response we can make is for citizens to unite, but we need to see many many more people doing this work.”

The day of action, which was organized by Extinction Rebellion (XR), came days after a new report from Oil Change International revealed that none of five North Sea countries—Norway, the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark—have plans consistent either with limiting warming to 1.5°C or with the agreement to transition away from fossil fuels reached at last year’s United Nations COP28 climate conference. If the five countries were counted as one, they would be the seventh biggest producer of oil and gas in the world.

In particular, these governments continue to issue permits to explore for and develop oil and gas fields, despite the fact that the International Energy Agency has said that no new fossil fuel development is compatible with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. In one high-profile example, the U.K. approved the undeveloped Rosebank oil field in September 2023. Taken together, these permits could lead to more than 10 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The worst offenders were Norway and the U.K., which could be among the top 20 developers of oil and gas fields through mid-century if they do not change course.

“The five major North Sea countries are at a crossroads: One path leads toward global leadership in climate action and green industries, where they take bold action to phase out oil and gas production that creates sustainable jobs and communities. The other path leads to catastrophic climate change, economic crisis, and the loss of status as climate leaders globally, as they cling to outdated practices while the world moves forward,” Silje Ask Lundberg, North Sea campaign manager at Oil Change International, said when the report was released.

Extinction Rebellion co-founder Clare Farrell said that the North Sea governments’ policies were a betrayal of their citizens and the world following the hottest year on record.

“Temperatures have tracked 1.5°C above average recently, almost 2°C,” Farrell said. “Our global commitments, such that they are, are being flushed away with no regard for what the public really want. Where’s the consent for that here in our democracies? No government has a mandate to do that. So people deserve to know that our governments are willfully destroying everything. The people of these North Sea nations have not consented to destroying civilization, but that’s what is going to happen. Their governments are unhinged and unchecked.”

Saturday’s protests, Farrell continued, were a way for the people in these countries to make their voices heard.

“The only serious response we can make is for citizens to unite, but we need to see many many more people doing this work,” Farrell said. “Direct action like this should shake us awake; our governments will destroy democracy and society if we let them continue, that’s the course we are on, and they are redoubling their efforts despite the facts and knowing how much suffering they are already causing all over the world as climate breaks down.”

The demands of Saturday’s protests were threefold: An end to new oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea, for governments to tell the truth about the realities of the climate crisis, and for the countries to pursue a just transition to renewable energy. In addition, many activists made additional demands specific to their nations’ policies.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, activists with Extinction Rebellion and Scientist Rebellion blocked all roads and railways leading to the largest oil refinery in Europe: Shell’s Pernis refinery. They targeted Shell because the oil major has received new permits to drill in the Victory Gas Field and has also restarted its drilling in the Pierce Field. What’s more, the company has refused to clean up its aging equipment in the North Sea, leaving old pipelines and drilling platforms to rust and pollute the sea with mercury, polonium, and radioactive lead. While there are 75 aging Shell oil and gas platforms in the Dutch North Sea that should be removed by 2035, current efforts are not on track to meet this deadline.

“Like the rest of the fossil industry, Shell is only interested in profits and shareholder returns,” said Bram Kroezen of XR Netherlands, adding that Shell’s appeal of a landmark court ruling ordering it to reduce emissions showed that the company “completely lacks a moral compass.”


Activists with Ende Gelände blocked off access to a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the port of Brunsbüttel, Germany, beginning at 9:00 am local time. The activists are calling for an end to LNG imports, as new science reveals the so-called “bridge” fuel may in fact be at least as damaging to the climate as coal due to previously unaccounted for methane leaks.

“LNG is a double climate killer,” Rita Tesch, spokesperson for Ende Gelände, said in a statement. “Because it consists of methane. Methane is even more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide. It escapes into the atmosphere during transportation by LNG ships and at terminals such as here in Brunsbüttel, and heats it up rapidly. The carbon dioxide from burning it is on top of that. It’s clear: LNG imports are a climate crime!”


Activists with XR Norway targeted Rafnes Petroleum Refinery, with some blockading access on land while another group entered the security area by boat.

“I’m ashamed to be a Norwegian,” XR Norway spokesperson Jonas Kittelsen said in a statement. “Norway profits massively from aggressively expanding our oil and gas sector, causing mass suffering and death globally. My government portrays us as better than the rest of the world, which we are not.”


Performance collective Becoming Species and Extinction Rebellion Denmark worked together to stage a creative protest targeting the oil company Total Energies, which is the leading oil and gas producer in the Danish North Sea and currently has plans to reopen “Tyra Feltet,” Denmark’s largest gas field. Four members of the band Octopussy Riot climbed a Total-owned container and staged a punk concert in Denmark’s Esbjerg Harbor.

“We octopuses have formed the band Octopussy Riot and have arrived here to play our song, a demand for you two-legs to stop oil and gas extraction,” performer Linh Le, said. “The sea is dying, our climate collapsing. We will not accept that the most rich and powerful destroy our home. We do not want to go extinct.”


Members of XR Sweden blocked the road to Gothenburg’s Oil Harbor, where the group has been protesting since May of 2022. The activists called on Sweden to stop investing in the harbor and on city officials to develop a plan to dismantle the harbor and refineries.

“Twenty-two million tons of oil enter Gothenburg’s port every year, which is owned by the city,” one activist said. “There is no plan for decommissioning. This does not go together with the climate goals.”


Finally, protesters across Scotland stood in solidarity with the other actions with performances and banner drops. In Aberdeen, activists unfurled banners outside the offices of Equinor, which owns 80% of Rosebank, and Ithaca, which owns the remaining 20%. The banners read, “North Sea Fossil Free,” “Stop Rosebank,” and “Sea knows no borders.” In Dundee, protesters targeted the Valaris 123 oil platform off the coast with banners. Shetland Stop Rosebank also brought signs to Lerwick Harbor, from where the first stage of Rosebank’s development is launching. XR Forres organized a performance of the group the “oil slicks” along the Moray Firth, to demonstrate what an oil spill would do to its unique coastal landscape.

“All countries should align their drilling plans with the Paris agreement now,” the XR U.K. spokesperson said. “We thank everyone who has taken action today in defense of a livable planet.”

Original article by OLIVIA ROSANE republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Continue Reading‘North Sea Fossil Free’: Activists in 6 Countries Protest ‘Unhinged’ Oil and Gas Development