GREENPEACE protesters draped the private home of prime minister Rishi Sunak in black fabric on Thursday (3), stepping up their campaign against his government’s policy on drilling for oil.
Sunak’s record on environmental issues has come under scrutiny in recent months after he said he would take a “proportionate approach” to climate change that balances net zero ambitions with the need to keep consumers’ bills down.
That has drawn fury from climate protesters who have stepped up their campaigns, disrupting high-profile sporting events, classical music concerts and political speeches.
In response, Sunak’s ministers have introduced new laws to clamp down on “eco-mob” protester tactics including slow walking in busy roads and “locking-on” to buildings or infrastructure.
Pictures posted online by Greenpeace UK on Thursday showed four protesters atop the property in Yorkshire, northern England, covering it in swathes of black fabric, while a banner read “RISHI SUNAK – OIL PROFITS OR OUR FUTURE?”
Around two hours later at 11.00 BST (10.00 GMT), four protesters were still on the roof with a sign saying “NO NEW OIL.”
Greenpeace said they were protesting the government’s backing for new North Sea oil and gas licences and a proposed development of Equinor’s Rosebank oilfield, which is subject to a final investment decision.
“We desperately need our prime minister to be a climate leader, not a climate arsonist,” Greenpeace UK said.
Sunak went on holiday to California on Wednesday (2). Police said they had contained the area and no one has entered the building.
A separate protest also took place outside Sunak’s official Downing Street residence and office on Thursday.
Britain in 2019 set a 2050 net zero carbon emission target and was quick to build up its renewable energy capacity.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned the spotlight on energy security, with the government on Monday committing to granting hundreds of licences for North Sea oil and gas extraction as part of efforts to become more energy independent.
It also approved its first new deep coal mine in decades in December.
A poll released on Wednesday showed 67 per cent of voters thought the government was handling environmental issues badly, the worst rating since mid-2019 when YouGov began tracking public opinion on the issue.
Some in Sunak’s Tory party are alarmed over the prime minister’s perceived backsliding over environmental commitments, with one minister, who quit in June, saying Sunak was uninterested in green issues.
Sunak defended his environmental record on Wednesday, saying Britain had done a better job than other major countries in cutting carbon emissions.
“We make no apology for taking the right approach to ensure our energy security, using the resources we have here at home so we are never reliant on aggressors like (Vladimir) Putin for our energy,” a source in his office said on Thursday.