In a depressingly familiar tale, the latest bank holiday weekend was characterised by vast disruption across the country from airport e-gates failing to function to engineering work crippling the country’s rail network.
What also caught the eye was more protests from Just Stop Oil, which interrupted showcase events such as rugby union’s premiership final at Twickenham and the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show with their orange dye antics.
Just Stop Oil is an environmental activist group, in many ways a successor to Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain – calling for no new oil and gas projects in the UK.
This is a credible position for people concerned about net zero carbon emissions, and eager for the UK to reach the Paris Agreement goal of sustaining global temperatures within two degrees of pre-industrial levels.
What is less reasonable is their methods.
On Saturday, two protestors leapt over the barriers at Twickenham and unleashed a cloud of dye on the pitch, halting the game between Sale Sharks and Saracens, a day after three activists rinsed a Chelsea Flower Show garden in orange dust, which ironically had been planted to promote biodiversity and sustainability.
This is not Just Stop Oil’s first rodeo – with similar tactics being displayed this year at The Crucible during the World Snooker Championship when a protestor plastered the table with powder.
The group also recently tried and failed to storm the stage at Shell’s AGM, and has been taking part in so-called ‘slow marches’ across London, blocking bridges and busy roads.
Most unpleasantly, activists have taken to fouling valuable artworks – including Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ at the National Gallery.
After all, it is so much easier to destroy and taint what is precious and meaningful to people than to build anything valuable yourself.
Yet, what is noteworthy is the public response to these tactics.
Public turn on eco-protestors
The intruders at the rugby were booed and heckled as they were dragged off by stewards and some of the players, the Chelsea Flower Show charlatans were given short shrift by visitors to the park, and in a less palatable episode – a man was detained by police for shoving away protestors blocking a road in central London.
While assault can never be condoned, what is heartening is the public can see Just Stop Oil for what it truly is – an anti-democratic mob looking to impose its will on others, without aiming to engage, argue or convince people of the moral value of its aims.
Blocking roads, disrupting events enjoyed by millions and butchering artworks that make up our cultural inheritance is not a matter of freedom of expression.
it is imposing your demands on others in a bid to dictate the policies of a government with the mandate of millions of people.
Polling consistently shows Brits care deeply about the planet, and most people engaged in the discussion around climate change know the world is not going fast enough to reduce emissions – and that this could have severe ecological and environmental consequences, potentially damaging our standard of living and causing severe harm to the natural world.
Essentially, we don’t need Just Stop Oil to showcase their message, especially as the debate they pretend is not being held is underway already, and doesn’t require their voice.
Labour have confirmed, after months of foreshadowing, that if they win the next election, they will stop any new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea.
Meanwhile, BNP Paribas has recently opted to stop funding new oil and gas developments.
Elsewhere, pressure groups such as Uplift have also been calling for no new sites in British waters – and their views are in line with the recent statements from the International Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Nevertheless, they are mistaken.
The UK requires fossil fuels to meet its supply needs for the next three decades, even as the government wisely ramps up renewable generation to reach net zero. After all, 85 per cent of its housing stock depends on gas for heating.
In such a scenario, securing the least carbon intensive supplies is essential – with domestic oil and gas being considerably less environmentally damaging than overseas imports of liquefied natural gas, alongside being more reliable and supporting tens of thousands of jobs.
It is also the case that energy giants such as BP and Shell will be essential to funding the transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen and offshore wind – while North Sea operators such as Harbour and Neptune will likely be key for carbon capture projects.
Such an argument would only fall on deaf ears if made to Just Stop Oil activists, as would the fact that London is the heart of green investment, making its routine attempts to bring the capital to a logjammed standstill as counterproductive as they are ignorant.
The UK’s energy future, environmental goals and creaking North Sea oil and gas industry are debates of real consequence, and would be best served if Just Stop Oil no longer featured in it.