Five climate crisis activists including Greta Thunberg will appear for trial in court on Thursday 1 February, after being arrested whilst peacefully protesting against the Energy Intelligence Forum, formerly the Oil and Money conference, in October 2023.
Thunberg and four others: on trial for peaceful protest
A demonstration took place outside Westminster Magistrates Court in solidarity with those on trial. The protestors held placards of top bosses at fossil fuel corporations, including Shell’s CEO Wael Sawan, that read “the real climate criminals”, as they asked “who should really be on trial?”:
A report by 350.org in 2020 found that some of the most severe corporate human rights abuses – such as corruption, extrajudicial killing and encroachment on indigenous rights – may be attributed to fossil fuel companies, like Shell’s operations in Nigeria and Chevron’s in Ecuador and Peru.
Supporters showing solidarity with the five activists included members of Fossil Free London and Greenpeace. Greta Thunberg, Christofer Kebbon, Joshua James Unwin, Jeff Rice, and Peter Baker have all been charged with a public order offence. A further 21 people who took part in the same demonstration, including supporters of Extinction Rebellion, are also due to appear in court on later dates.
The protest was part of Oily Money Out – a series of disruptions from the 17-19 October 2023 against the carbon emissions, political influence, and lobbying of the fossil fuel companies and banks attending the Energy Intelligence Forum.
CEOs of the world’s largest oil and gas companies attended the conference. They met with financiers and politicians, including the UK government’s minister for energy security and net zero Graham Stuart.
UK government: destroying the climate while cracking down on protest
Global Witness recently found that between January and March of 2023 UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and climate and energy ministers met with fossil fuel companies 54 times. The government has since announced a new UK oil and gas licensing round in the North Sea, approved the controversial Rosebank oil field, and pushed through the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill.
Most of the defendants were charged with “failing to comply with a condition imposed under section 14 of the Public Order Act”, and pleaded not guilty.
This legislation was controversially amended by the then-home secretary Suella Braverman. The legality of that amendment is due to undergo judicial review later in February in a separate case brought forward by human rights group Liberty.
This, along with the controversial ‘Policing Bill’ (Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act), expanded police powers by changing the threshold at which police can set legally binding conditions on marches and assemblies. The UN Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders recently said he was seriously concerned about these “regressive new laws”.
Joanna Warrington, an organiser with Fossil Free London, said of Greta Thunberg and the others’ trial:
Super-rich oil bosses are corrupting our politics. They spend millions lobbying our politicians to double down on unaffordable and dirty fuels, locking us into a future of struggle. Their profit is our loss.
Everywhere, temperatures are rising and repression is close behind. The UK criminalises peaceful climate activists like Greta whilst rolling out the red carpet for climate criminals in Mayfair hotels. Fossil fuel corporations are most responsible for the climate crisis, and we will continue to hold them to account no matter what the state throws at us.
We have to. Because nothing is worse than losing everything.
‘Obscene and shocking’
Maja Darlington, campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:
The disconnect is alarming. Greenpeace activists are on trial today for peacefully protesting against Big Oil’s pernicious influence on our politics. Meanwhile, Shell executives are celebrating making billions from selling climate-wrecking fossil fuels.
The prosecution of Greta and other peaceful protesters reflects a government that cares more about bolstering the profits of oil bosses than fighting for a livable future for all of us.
Instead of cracking down on climate activists, the UK government should force Shell and the rest of the oil industry to stop drilling and start paying for the damage they are causing to our planet and everyone who lives on it.
Nicola Harries, lawyer and Extinction Rebellion supporter, said:
Hosting an oil and money conference in the middle of the unfolding climate emergency was obscene and sickening. Our politics has been held hostage by these criminal banks and criminal fossil fuel companies who are holding back the transition we urgently need.
Why do we allow them to rake in record profits while the world burns, people drown, lose their homes and go hungry? As usual our “justice system” is putting the wrong people in the dock.
Featured image via Fossil Free London