Opponents of fossil fuel extraction in Surrey have set up a climate camp on land proposed for gas exploration.
The site, near the village of Dunsfold, is at the centre of a planning dispute between local people and the drilling company, UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG).
The group behind the camp said they today would stay until UKOG’s plans were refused.
Dunsfold Climate Emergency Camp said in a statement this morning:
“We are here to peacefully stop UK Oil & Gas from drilling for oil and gas on this land and to prevent them from industrialising our countryside. We aim to do this with least disruption to the local community and whilst minimizing our environmental footprint.”
The statement said:
“The decision to go ahead with the camp in these unprecedented times due to the global Covid-19 pandemic has not been taken lightly but given the climate and ecological emergency that we are also facing we feel that we cannot afford to stand by and do nothing.
“After an application for drilling was twice turned down by Surrey County Council last year, UK Oil & Gas appealed to the Planning Inspectorate. An inquiry was held in July, but the final decision has yet to be announced. If the appeal is turned down, we will gladly disband the camp but until then we will be here.”
The statement referred to comments made in August 2021 by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres. He described the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a “code red for humanity”. He also said the report “must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet”.
Dunsfold Climate Emergency Camp said:
“The continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.
“Research shows that the carbon dioxide released from burning the oil, gas and coal in already-operating fields and mines globally will push the world far beyond 1.5°C of warming, the temperature above which leading climate scientists warn of catastrophic climate events.
“The message is clear – fossil fuels must be left in the ground.”
The group also referred to comments made by the International Energy Agency in May 2021. It said there should be no new oil and gas fields from now if the target of net zero emissions by 2050 were to be achieved.
The group added:
“Yet from the Cambo Oil field off the coast of Scotland, Whitehaven coal mine in Cumbria, to Horse Hill oil field in the south of England, new fossil fuel extraction plans continue to be pursued in the UK. This cannot be allowed to continue. We are here to stop this happening in Dunsfold.”
DrillOrDrop invited UKOG to comment on the camp. This article will be updated with any response.
At the Dunsfold public inquiry, UKOG said national and local policy recognised “a compelling need” for the continued exploration and exploitation of new gas reserves.
UKOG’s barrister, David Elvin QC, said the Dunsfold scheme was “an essential plank” and a “pre-requisite” of the government strategy to reduce carbon emissions. He told the inquiry:
“government energy policy requires the continuation of a security energy supply and the production of gas notwithstanding climate change issues and the move towards net zero by 2050”.
A High Court injunction is in force against protests at the UKOG site at Horse Hill, also in Surrey.