After covering Sunak’s house in black fabric, campaigners on the roof held up a sign reading: “No new oil”. When they returned to ground level, police arrested the activists.
Five activists were arrested after climbing onto the roof of prime minister Rishi Sunak’s home, just days after No. 10 announced it would be granting hundreds of new oil and gas licences for the North Sea.
North Yorkshire Police confirmed they had arrested two men and two women on suspicion of causing criminal damage and public nuisance after they returned to ground level. A third man was also arrested on suspicion of causing a public nuisance.
All those arrested remained in police custody, according to officials.
Greenpeace UK said campaigners had unfurled “oil-black fabric” on one side of the house at Kirby Sigston, near Northallerton. On the roof, climbers held up a sign reading: “No new oil”.
Sunak and his family were not at the property, as they are currently holidaying in California.
Protester Alex Wilson released a video message from the roof of Sunak’s house. In the video, she said: “We’re all here because Rishi Sunak has opened the door to a new drilling frenzy in the North Sea while large parts of our world are literally on fire. This will be a disaster for the climate.”
Speaking to reporters on a visit to a Shell gas terminal north of Aberdeen on Monday, the PM said: “My view is we should max out the opportunities that we have here in the North Sea, because that’s good for our energy security.
“It’s good for jobs, particularly here in Scotland, but it’s also good for the climate because the alternative is shipping energy here from halfway around the world with three or four times the carbon emissions. So any which way you look at it, the right thing to do is to invest into back our North Sea, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Despite these assurances, campaigners, fellow MPs and members of the public have been left in “dismay” over the comments and the planned granting of drilling licences.
Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP who led a review for the government into net zero, called the North Sea plans “the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time”.
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow climate secretary, Ed Miliband, said the proposals were “economic illiteracy” which would “do nothing for our energy security and drive a coach and horses through our climate commitments”.
The idea that increasing domestic output of oil and gas will increase the UK’s energy security in the event of future price spikes, such as those that occurred following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are hotly contested and generally dismissed. Fossil fuels are traded on an international market, and so any global increase in prices would still affect oil and gas drilled in UK waters.
Sunak’s claim that producing oil and gas domestically is better for the environment has also come under fire. Data published on Monday by the North Sea Transition Authority did indeed find that producing, transporting and regasifying liquified natural gas (LNG) from overseas has a higher carbon intensity compared with a UK alternative. However, since the overwhelming majority of emissions come from burning LNG rather than producing and transporting it, any real differences in emissions are significantly reduced after use.
The PM’s plans also failed to recognise that renewable energy can be domestically produced, often at a reduced cost.
Reacting to a searing report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres was quoted as saying: “The truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”
When asked on LBC radio whether he was indeed a “dangerous radical”, Sunak dismissed the claim, pointing instead to the UK’s record on climate.
“We should not take any lectures from anybody about our record,” he said, highlighting that Britain had decarbonised the quickest out of all of the G7 major economies, according to national inventory data submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In reality, Sunak has had almost nothing to do with any historical drops in emissions during both his tenure as Chancellor and now as PM. As Damian Carrington, Environment Editor for The Guardian, wrote on Monday, Sunak’s real contribution to Britain’s climate action will be to “torch the UK’s hard-won international reputation for climate leadership and embolden petrostates in their efforts to block climate action”. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister.