XR scientists glue hands to business department in London climate protest


Twenty-five scientists have pasted pages of scientific papers to the windows of the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and glued their hands to the glass to highlight the climate science they said the government was ignoring.

The scientists, affiliated with Scientists for Extinction Rebellion, arrived at the department’s building at 1 Victoria Street, Westminster, London, just after 11am. Doctors and health professionals staged a decoy action to give them space to get into position.

The action came a week after the government published a new energy strategy that promised to continue the exploitation of North Sea oil and gas, failed to set targets for onshore wind, and gave nuclear power a central role.

Dr Aaron Thierry, a 36-year-old ecologist who had his hand glued to the window of BEIS, said: “I really wish I was not here, but also I’m really glad that I’m here with all these scientists who know what’s right.

“Last week the world’s scientists released a report that sounded the final alarm for the planet. It said we must end our addiction to fossil fuels now. The UK government’s response a few days later was to announce it will increase its exploration for oil and gas with the intention of extracting every last drop.

“Science tells us that this approach will condemn our civilisations to destruction. We will not stand by and let this happen. Scientists have been sounding the alarm for decades but have been ignored by governments.”

Richard Ecclestone, a former inspector with Devon and Cornwall police who was acting as legal observer of the protest for XR, said the scientists had decided on the action because of the energy strategy. “They put this action together to draw the attention of the department for business, to remind them of what the science is,” he said.

“They’ve taken quotes from recent scientific reports saying basically there’s irrefutable evidence now that we cannot continue to search for and exploit oil and gas reserves, or that will mean death.”

Dr Charlie Gardner, 43, a conservation scientist and associate senior lecturer at the University of Kent, said: “At both the domestic and international policy level, there are very powerful actors who don’t want our society to decarbonise.

“There are people who are very wealthy and powerful from the way that the world is set up now and they don’t want that to change, they don’t want to decarbonise because that will limit their opportunity to generate money from fossil fuels.

“As a result we have government departments making decisions that will lead us to calamity, and as a scientist I know what impacts this has, I can see that coming, and I can’t be passive, I can’t just let that happen. I need to act.”

At least 10 scientists were arrested after spray-painting extinction symbols in the glass facade of the BEIS building. Among them was Prof Colin Davis, the chair in cognitive psychology at Bristol university. Gardner said they had escalated the protest with spray-painting in an effort to provoke the police into making arrests.

“Colin is a professor of psychology, and I can’t speak for him but his work is about how to influence people and I believe it is his understanding of how to influence the public, how to bring about social change, his professional understanding [that] has led him to believe this is the most powerful action he can take,” Gardner said. The Guardian has contacted the Metropolitan police for more details of arrests linked to the protest.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “We are gradually driving down demand for oil and gas, but we cannot have a cliff edge by turning off our domestic source overnight. Doing so would put our energy security, British jobs and industries at risk and simply increase foreign imports, not reduce demand. Our British energy security strategy sets out a long-term plan to ramp up cheap renewables as we transition away from expensive fossil fuels.”

South of the river, other supporters of XR had ended a mass march by surrounding the buildings that house the UK headquarters of the oil and gas company Shell. Several had managed to get inside and glue themselves and several XR flyers to the reception desk. Others were glued to the floor in the private office complex surrounding the site.

XR said it was demanding a meeting with Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive. Outside, about 100 people from XR’s whistleblowing platform, TruthTeller, each held up a placard with the name of an individual Shell employee and the words “Please join us”.

Chloe Naldrett, 42, a theatre producer from Bristol, was glued by her hand to the floor just outside the revolving doors to the Shell reception, where she was telling the site’s security manager why she was refusing to leave. The science, she told him, “said no more fossil fuels. No more fossil fuels!”

Naldrett told the Guardian: “We’re here outside Shell because Shell have absolutely no intention of stopping investing in fossil fuels … They currently have plans to expand their fossil fuel business by 20% for the next few decades. And that, for me, is a death sentence for my children.

“I’m here as a mother doing the only thing that I feel I can do … I’m now taking direct action, out of a place of desperation really, because what else can I do for them?”

One XR protester had managed to infiltrate the eighth floor of the Shell building. In a video shot inside the building and circulated to journalists by XR, Andy Smith said: “I’m taking this action to basically highlight Shell’s aggressive approach to extracting oil in foreign countries. The people who live in those countries don’t want you there, Shell; just like you don’t want me in your building.”

The protests were part of a week of civil disobedience by XR in London. The environmental protest group, which called on supporters to take a week off work to take part, began its “rebellion” on Saturday with blockades in the West End, and on Sunday supporters blocked bridges over the Thames.


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