Campaigners blockade DfT in direct action over oil lobbying

Last edited 28 November 2011 at 8:38am
28 November, 2011
  • 50 activists chained outside ministry on opening day of UN climate talks
  • Direct action follows fresh oil lobbying revelations

As the UN climate talks opened this morning more than fifty environmental activists took direct action to blockade both major entrances to the UK’s Department of Transport (DfT) in London whilst other campaigners demonstrated with banners outside British embassies in Paris, Berlin and Stockholm.

Campaigners are targeting the British government after documents released showed how officials from its transport department are working to sabotage a key European proposal that would block tar sands oil, the dirtiest oil in the world, from ending up in petrol pumps across Europe. (1) The environmentalists say the UK is doing Big Oil’s dirty work following lobbying by oil majors including BP and Shell.

At around 7.30 am, teams of Greenpeace activists used large plywood boards, locks and chains to seal off the doorways of the DfT to stop officials from getting into their offices. The boards are painted with a gigantic ‘lobbying handshake’ and marked with the brands of oil companies BP, Shell and Exxon. Other activists have unfurled a huge banner reading ‘HM Department for Tar Sands’ whilst many others have chained themselves together and to the doorways so as to make any eviction attempt more difficult. 

Today’s direct action comes less than a week before officials from all over Europe will meet in Brussels for a possible decision about whether they will approve a European plan called the ‘Fuel Quality Directive.’ This would effectively prevent the most polluting fuels in the world from entering European forecourts, and bring down the carbon footprint of Europe’s transport fuels by 6% between 2010 and 2020. (2) If passed the directive would deal a major blow to plans to expand Canada’s tar sands oil extraction programme, which is why the oil industry – and the UK on their behalf - has mounted an aggressive lobbying effort to kill the plan. A majority of European countries must back the plan for it to become law, and right now the vote could go either way because of a UK-led diplomatic offensive to scupper it. (3)

Greenpeace energy campaigner, Paul Morrozzo, explained:

“It’s deeply hypocritical that whilst our Ministers will jet off this week to the international climate talks in South Africa to talk about the need to cut carbon emissions, away from the cameras here at home they’re doing everything they can to scupper a key European plan that would do just that. Officials in this building are using wrecking ball tactics to try and sabotage important European moves to make our economy cleaner and less reliant on the most polluting and destructively extracted types of oil like tar sands.” 

Morrozzo added:

“Extracting oil from tar sands emits on average between three and five times more carbon dioxide than conventional oil drilling. David Cameron and Nick Clegg should intervene to ensure oil lobbyists and their allies in the Department for Transport don’t manage to derail this key European move away from one of the dirtiest energy sources known to man.”

Earlier this month President Obama caused a set back to the tar sands expansion when he ordered a review into the controversial XL Pipeline that would carry Canadian tar sands into the United States. (4) Greenpeace believes that if Europe approves the Fuel Quality Directive, by cutting off one of the biggest oil demand markets, it could halt the expansion of tar sands extraction altogether.

For more information:

Joss Garman 07815 004 578

Greenpeace UK Press Office
020 7865 8255

For photography and video:

Greenpeace UK Picture Desk
+ 44 207 865 8118 

(1) and
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