13:20 18 October 2023: This article was updated to reflect that Thunberg was charged with a public order offence following her arrest
On Tuesday 17 October, hundreds of international protesters gathered in London to shut down a major fossil fuel conference where some of the world’s largest corporate climate criminals were set to convene. Of course, the Met police turned up to escort fossil fuel executives through the throng of protesters – and to arrest the activists blocking the entrance – including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Protest at major fossil fuel conference
On Tuesday, activists from across Europe travelled to London to join protests outside a major fossil fuel conference. Protesters demonstrated in streets outside the Intercontinental Hotel, where fossil fuel companies and their financiers were meeting for the Energy Intelligence Forum. The event runs between 17 to 19 October.
As the Canary’s Steve Topple previously highlighted, the forum is “the world’s largest annual gathering of energy companies.” Moreover, Topple noted that guests included “bosses from notorious fossil fuel companies”.
In fact, the conference is brimming with speakers from the likes of major climate-wrecking corporations including BP, Chevron, and Exxonmobil.
So, as profiteering bosses from infamous ecocidal corporations sidled up, activists blocked the doors to the conference. Naturally then, the Met police arrived to arrest the protesters taking direct action against these environmental vandals.
Police charge Greta Thunberg
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in the action. On Twitter, Fossil Free London announced her arrest alongside that of 26 fellow activists:
BREAKING: Greta Thunberg has been arrested blocking the entrance to the Oil and Money conference.
Hours after delivering a speech about the pollution of our politics by oily money.
It's up to us to stand up for us.
— Fossil Free London (@fossilfreeLDN) October 17, 2023
In a press release on Wednesday, the organisation said it believed that all arrestees have now been released. It stated that the police had charged a number of protesters with breaching the Section 14 order which the force had put in place during the demo. Greta Thunberg was among the activists charged with the public order offence.
Speaking to the crowd before joining the action, Thunberg said:
Behind these closed doors at the oil and money conference, spineless politicians are making deals and compromises with lobbyists from destructive industries, the fossil fuel industry.
People all over the world are suffering and dying from the consequences of the climate crisis caused by these industries who we allow to meet with our politicians and have privileged access to.
Echoing this, in a press release before the protest, Fossil Free London organiser Nuri Syed Corser said that the activists were staging the action to:
get oily money out of our politics
Conflicts of interest
Activists therefore highlighted the hypocrisy of politicians attending the conference, which was ostensibly advertised as a “high-level networking” opportunity.
The COP28 climate summit’s president Sultan Al Jaber was originally due to speak.
Climate groups and campaigners have fiercely criticised his role as COP28 president. Specifically, they’ve highlighted his conflict of interest as head of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) state oil and gas firm. As such, him speaking at the high-profile fossil fuel conference would have added fuel to the fire.
On 11 October, Fossil Free London rejoiced in a tweet that their protests had forced the COP28 president to withdraw from speaking at the forum:
Oop 👀 not any more…
COP28 President pulls out of the globally significant Energy Intelligence Forum (Oil and Money Conference) in the face of our climate protest
— Fossil Free London (@fossilfreeLDN) October 11, 2023
The conference website no longer lists Al Jaber among its speakers.
Big polluter elite in politics
However, protests haven’t stopped other policymakers from mingling with fossil fuel bosses and their backers. As Topple previously remarked for the Canary, energy minister Graham Stuart MP is attending on behalf of the UK government.
In September, the government greenlit the disastrous Rosebank oil and gas field. The project will generate enormous emissions over its lifetime and jeopardise the UK reaching its 2050 net zero target. Of course, this is the same target which Rishi Sunak also threw under the bus with a series of green policy rollbacks earlier that same month.
As the Canary pointed out at the time, these moves are invariably “a boon for the big polluter elite”. Naturally, British politicians happen to be among them – none more notable than the prime minister himself. It’s also worth mentioning that conference attendees Shell and BP have both signed major deals with Sunak’s father-in-law’s IT firm Infosys.
Moreover, fossil fuel companies have their hooks in UK politics through generous political donations. In 2022 alone, Desmog revealed that the industry had given over £3.5m in donations to the Conservative Party.
The Canary’s Tracy Keeling previously wrote on politicians’ cosy relationship with big polluters that:
Decision makers too often appear aligned – in thought and deed – with interests that are not only responsible for the crises, but actively pushing against the reforms necessary to tackle them. Until this changes, meaningful action will remain out of reach.
Networking bonanza and bogus transition claims
Unsurprisingly, the conference includes a number of discussions on some of the fossil fuel industry’s favoured climate ‘solutions’. For instance, attendees can join the conversation on carbon capture and storage entitled “How Can CCUS Fulfill Its Promise Profitably”. Meanwhile, the conference will also play host to talks on the “Future of Hydrogen”.
Of course, as the Canary has consistently highlighted, these low carbon ‘solutions’ are riddled with problems – not least that they throw a lifeline to extend the industry’s extractive operations. Yet politicians from across the divide are buying into these business-as-usual technologies. These same ‘solutions’ were front and centre at both the recent Conservative, and Labour Party conferences.
In a press release, Thunberg underscored the danger in allowing the fossil fuel industry to steer the conversation:
The elite of the oil and money conference have no intention of transition. Their plan is to continue this destructive surge of profits.
Indeed, campaign groups have repeatedly exposed fossil fuel companies’ bogus transition claims. Recently for instance, Reclaim Finance demolished French fossil fuel major TotalEnergies claim that it was “the most committed to the energy transition.”
Instead, the group found that the company in fact:
intends to increase its fossil gas business in both relative and absolute terms
Keeping up the pressure as industry turns up the heat
After police charged the campaigners, activists have continued protests undeterred. On Wednesday morning, they gathered again outside the conference. This time, protesters turned out to challenge Equinor boss Anders Opedal. The Norwegian energy giant is developing the controversial Rosebank project off the Scottish coast.
Activists intend to continue to disrupt the forum throughout its three-day conference – showing that they will not back down in calling out the profiteers hell-bent on destroying the planet.
Featured image and additional images via Fossil Free London
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