Climate protest begins in London against investment in fossil fuels

Extinction Rebellion installed a huge pink table in central London at the start of two weeks of protest demanding the UK government stop investment in fossil fuels.

Extinction Rebellion protest near Leicester Square in central London. Photo: XR SE Press

Activists chained themselves to the 4m high table near Leicester Square and said they were prepared to stay. Hundreds blocked the roads around Trafalgar Square.

The table was described as the “centrepiece” of crisis talks” in which Extinction Rebellion said it intended to talk to people about the climate emergency.

The installation launched XR’s Impossible Rebellion, its latest series of direct actions, marches and events.

The group called on people to rebel in the City of London until the UK government agreed to stop immediately all new fossil fuel investments.

Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion co-founder, said:

“Our leaders in Government and Business have been failing us for years, they are taking us over a cliff. If they are in any way serious about tackling this existential crisis then they would immediately stop financing fossil fuels, because continuing to pour petrol on a fire is an obvious sign of insanity.

“Why don’t they act? They are wedded to a corrupt political economy, centred in the City of London, that extracts vast profits from communities and nature, and depends on destructive economic growth for its survival. We need to tell the truth, humanity has to change course, we have no choice.”

The action follows a recent “code red” warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a recommendation in May 2021 from the International Energy Agency that all new fossil fuel development must stop now to stay within the 1.5 degree warming threshold.

“Grown-up conversations”

Extinction Rebellion has been criticised for disrupting traffic and businesses during previous protests.

In September 2020, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, described the group as “eco-crusaders turned criminals”. A government bill, aimed at giving police greater powers to control protests, is going through parliament.

Extinction Rebellion said today the location of the table had been chosen to counter these claims. It said the height would “capture people passing by without causing chaos”.

Charlie Waterhouse, of Extinction Rebellion, said:

“We are inviting everyone in Britain to come to the table and have the kind of grown-up conversations government, industry and the media are refusing. When those in positions of power are incapable, it is the responsibility of the people to step up. We are in the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced, and Extinction Rebellion are calling crisis talks.

“Only the common sense of citizens and the wisdom of global perspectives will navigate the impossible decisions ahead, and that navigation starts today, on the streets of London. Government, industry and the media want to keep us divided, but we must not fight each other, we must unite in survival solidarity.”


The Metropolitan Police said this evening that eight people had been arrested today (23 August 2021) for a variety of offences.

The force said 10 people had been arrested yesterday (22 August 2021) when activists gathered outside the Guildhall in the City of London. Some activists climbed the outside of the building, lit flares and displayed a banner saying “co-liberation-freedom together”.

Ruth Hayhurst will be reporting for DrillOrDrop from the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November

15 replies »

  1. Here we go again, how to lose any support they have left……………

    Meanwhile in the real world:

    Renewables – 16% (of which 8% is wind) at 1855hrs this evening. Gas 49% and coal 2%.

    We are importing more electricity than our wind is currently generating despite the huge installed wind capacity. Perhaps it is not windy?

    Perhaps XR have a better alternative?

    • The ‘real world’, Paul is the world that has put us in this position, the world we must turn our back on as it seeks to exploit to survive. Massive investment in renewables is the sine qua non of survival. XR are succeeding in getting us to stop and look. Given the warnings we have had, the figures for gas, coal and renewables are pathetic. Thanks for this information, Paul, from the ‘real world’.

      • The real world is where individuals make their own decisions. The “we” speak is for the activist who tries to enlarge their importance by claiming to speak for others. “Everyone”, also features.

        Well, it will be others who make their own decisions that will make a difference, and XR being more interested in the R bit is turning off those others.

        The others know that there is massive investment in renewables, but that will not be enough on it’s own. The others also know that some investment into renewables has been an absolute waste of their money and will not not be fooled into believing that more of their money will solve that issue, and will prefer good investment. I do not hear any call for more Cash for Ash, other than the lobbyists employed to do such.

        But, many of those others will happily agree that HS2, whilst being a massive investment, will improve the environment, (especially the many who have used the TGV) whilst some of the “wes” protest against it because it is a massive investment and thus the environment can be ignored if they decide the R bit is more important! Once again, too much focus upon the R and not really interested in the X bit.

        There has been just as much exploiting within renewables as any other sector. The public is already aware of that. Stopping and looking might just produce a result that is unexpected.

      • Iaith1720 – lots of warnings, lots of protests, no viable solutions offered i.e. what to replace fossil fuels with at the speed you seem to want? Work out how much extra wind capacity would need to be installed to eliminate fossil fuels from the electricity generation mix yesterday evening. Roughly 6 times as much installed capacity.

        Currently (Q1 2021) there is just under 48GW installed electricity generating capacity defined as renewables. Of that 24.5GW is wind (onshore and offshore). Last night’s demand was around 35GW yet still more than 50% was provided by fossil fuels. There are technical reasons why the amount intermittent generation must be limited. Base load is fairly fixed, demand load needs to be fairly fast to turn on / off when needed or not. Hence the main issue with wind being weather dependent. PV is more predictable in that there isn’t any at night. Until we have viable large scale renewables storage (like pumped hydro and batteries) we have a problem with the proportion of renewables.

        If wind is the answer we need to install another 122GW of wind to eliminate fossil fuels from last night’s mix and have a 100% renewables.

        The statistics are interesting (latest ONS report for Q1 2021):

        “Generation (renewables) was down by 6.4 TWh (16 per cent) on 2020 Quarter 1 which had been a record for renewable generation. Generation was affected by less favourable weather conditions and little additional capacity.”

        “Onshore wind generation decreased by 23 per cent to to 9.9 GWh and offshore wind generation was down by 16 per cent. Wind generation was affected by lower average wind speeds, being down by around a fifth on the first quarter of 2020 which had seen exceptionally high wind speeds and generation.”

        I understand what you wish for, but in my “real world” I look at numbers and statistics and they do not match your aspirations.

        Lots of useful information in this link and the links within:

        Gas will be with us for a while yet, as all the forecasts show (except FOE / XR / Greenpeace etc…).

    • Are the X-R lot actually in the pay of the fossil fuel lobby? If so it is money well spent if the object is to turn the public against “green” initiatives.

  2. If I were a Londoner, trying to work or feed my family, I’m sure that a young arts graduate called Jemima in hand painted wellies (paint and wellies made from hydrocarbons) would be just the person to explain to me why the roads were blocked and why I should be grateful.

  3. Well, letting off flares seems a sensible (lol) approach! “The common sense of citizens”? Typical activist speak. Put a few words together which have absolutely nothing to do with what unfolds.

    Just part of the problem, not the solution.

  4. But, not a problem when required to rescue people from earthquakes!

    Or, to produce artificial rubber for the manufacture of medical devices required to assist those with Covid.

    Investment in one thing does not preclude investment into another. If the activists concentrated on making the another a proper solution they might make more progress. But they don’t. They deny the maths and physics and believe others will too, if they call them deniers if they do!

    Meanwhile, they will invest in a plastic keyboard and then deny they have themselves invested in fossil fuels. Bless.

    (I had my heat pump serviced yesterday, so am now ready for the coming winter. But, I will still be using gas.)

  5. Paul, your knowledge of the subject and ability to produce statistics at the drop of a hat are admirable. Do you deny however that if a major part of the funding, private and covert public, which goes into sustaining fossil fuels (primarily I contend for questionable motives) were diverted to the improvement of mixed renewable provision, we could not in a short – question mark here, I know – period of time dispense with fossil fuels? This would indeed be a counsel of despair given our shared belief in the anthropogenic nature of the climate heating we have and our ability to adapt, mitigate and reverse.

    • Globally you may be right but of course serious amounts of private and public money are being invested in renewables R & D, including in fusion – which will solve the electricity generation issue. Demand creates supply and price. Private funding follows demand / shareholder revenue. Covert public funding? What is that?

      A good summary of Oil and Gas tax in the UK can be found at the OBR website:

      Currently around 40%, was 50% – is this what you mean by “covert”? I don’t think you will find any other industries taxed at 40%?

      We will eventually dispense with fossil fuels, after all they are finite but clearly we need to go quicker than that. I assume you follow the National Grid and BP forecasts?

      Click to access bp-energy-outlook-2020.pdf

      These show the extremes and no doubt we will end up in the middle.

      • Regarding tax, Paul, doesn’t the oil and gas actually belong to the crown? Companies are given a licence to extract it, and split the proceeds with the Crown (i.e. us).

        So the 40% isn’t really a tax rate, rather sharing out the proceeds between resource owner and those who realise the value of the resource.

        Neat use of words by the Oil & Gas lobby?

        • Over £20 billion per year in fuel duty, ie. a tax.

          I have heard a lot of questions to a lot of people as to how that will be replaced. As yet, not one answer.

          It is pretty difficult with electricity, where it is used by non motorists as well. Probably will require extensive road toll system-and who will be taxed to pay for that? Unless the cost is added to EVs as a huge road tax, and then the already uneconomic cost rises further-but hugely.

          I believe wind and sun belong to us as well. Don’t see too much of that being returned to us, yet.

          Why is it that when economics are brought into the equation then the immediate response is a one sided equation? By now, those who want huge resources ie. tax, plonked into alternatives should have come up with a coherent position. It really is becoming quite noticeable that they haven’t.

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