Just Stop Oil in danger of ‘sucking the oxygen’ out of essential climate debate

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Just Stop Oil’s civil disruption tactics could be damaging the campaign to form effective action to combat climate change, it has been claimed.

With the UK’s net-zero targets in jeopardy and severe weather events witnessed across the globe, Professor Rupert Read, formerly of Extinction Rebellion, has helped create the Climate Majority Project.

The group aims to be an incubator for people and communities trapped in the middle ground of the climate debate, those who disagree with Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain’s tactics, but agree action is needed to halt surging global temperatures.

In contrast both groups, the Climate Majority Project aims to act as a hub of funding for programmes across the country to battle climate change.

Just Stop Oil protesters on Tower Bridge (Just Stop Oil)
Just Stop Oil protesters on Tower Bridge (Just Stop Oil)

“The one thing which is really important is that we make sure that we don’t just spend all the time talking about tactics, right?

“Because if we do, then we miss the real point, which is the absolute need to take effective action together and for people to get out of a frame of mind of sort of, he said, she said, whining, complaining, et cetera, and into a frame of mind, which is much more let’s do it, let’s get together and make sure that it happens,” he told the Standard.

“I would say that there is an issue that environmental action is now so much associated in people’s minds with Just Stop Oil.

“There’s a danger that the oxygen is being sucked out of other things.”

Over the summer, Just Stop Oil launched a series of protests targeting London Pride, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Gallagher Premiership rugby final at Twickenham, the World Snooker Championship and the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.

Since February 14, 2022, there have been over 2,000 arrests. In July the Met said it had spent more £7.7million over a 13-week campaign to deal with the group.

The protests garnered heavy criticism across the political spectrum with Sir Keir Starmer labelling the protesters as “contemptible”.

Professor Read added: “It’s only when we get to the stage that people start noticing and hearing about, and being a part of or feeling a part of or being able to at least consider being a part of climate, majority style activities, that they will not just kind of instantly associate environmental action in their minds with the likes of Just Stop Oil.

“For most people, you know, the tactics of Just Stop Oil are not what they want and we’re here for all of those who don’t want the tactics of Just Stop Oil.”

Refusing to use civil disobedience, the Climate Majority Project hopes to gather funding from investors to support citizen climate action and communities.

The group has already joined forces with Lawyers for Net Zero, Wild Card, a group pushing to rewild land, and Community Climate Action, a group provides a template for co-creating a local climate action plan in collaboration with your community.

As the group says in its founding statement: “Time’s up for last warnings on climate. There’s been “just enough time” to avert catastrophe for 20 years, but dangerous emissions keep rising.

“Most scientists now privately admit we are headed past 1.5C of over-heating – the danger zone they warned our leaders never to enter. The question now is how many more avoidable disasters will we allow?

“It’s time now to mainstream ambitious action on climate and nature. Nobody’s children will be better off if we continue to fail – rich or poor, corporate or counterculture. We must help each other to face our situation.

“Knowing we’re not alone gives us the confidence to play our part; seeing that it counts towards a much bigger plan. That’s when a majority can become an irresistible political force.”

In response, a spokesperson for Just Stop Oil said: “The climate crisis is rapidly spinning out of control and governments are failing to take urgent action to protect their citizens.

“So yes we need everyone to step up and demand better and we need to find ways of protecting ourselves from what is coming. But history has shown that nonviolent civil resistance is the most effective way of forcing governments to act.

“So while there is always room for different approaches in the climate movement, Just Stop Oil exists to enable ordinary people to take action that is commensurate with the scale of the crisis we face.”