Climate and Environment

Police detain Greta Thunberg at London climate protest

Olivier Devos - Agence France-Presse
Police detain Greta Thunberg at London climate protest
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg holds a press conference outside the InterContinental London Park Lane during the "Oily Money Out" demonstration organised by Fossil Free London and Greenpeace on the sidelines of the opening day of the Energy Intelligence Forum 2023 in London on October 17, 2023.
AFP/Henry Nicholls

LONDON, United Kingdom — UK police on Tuesday removed Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg from a protest outside the energy sector's annual London get-together, an AFP photographer reported.

The 20-year-old activist, who has become a key face of the movement to fight climate change, was taken away by two police officers and put into the back of a police van outside the Energy Intelligence Forum.

Joining a mass protest, Thunberg earlier slammed "closed door" agreements struck between politicians and representatives of the oil and gas industry.

"Behind these closed doors, spineless politicians are making deals and compromises with lobbyists from (the) destructive fossil fuel industry," Thunberg told journalists outside the venue hosting the annual gathering, which runs until Thursday.

Several hundred protestors gathered by the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel during the "Oily Money Out" demonstration, organised by pressure groups Fossil Free London and Greenpeace, blocking all entrances to the venue.

The carbon-intensive sector has faced fierce criticism from the green lobby for continuing to invest in dirty fossil fuels and worsen climate change -- instead of accelerating the shift towards cleaner renewable energy.

"The world is drowning in fossil fuels. Our hopes and dreams and lives are being washed away by a flood of greenwashing and lies," added Thunberg.

"It has been clear for decades that the fossil fuel industries were well aware of the consequences of their business models, and yet, they have done nothing.

"The opposite -- they have actively delayed, distracted and denied the causes of the climate crisis and spread doubts about their own engagement in it," she said.

 Oil bosses 

The gathering will be addressed Tuesday by a host of industry bigwigs, including Shell chief executive Wael Sawan, his counterpart at French group TotalEnergies Patrick Pouyanne, and Saudi Aramco boss Amin Nasser.

Outside the forum, demonstrators banged drums and chanted "stop the oil, stop the gas" and "We are unstoppable, another world is possible".

"I've got six grandchildren. I have nightmares about the future for them," protestor Doro Marden told AFP.

Demonstrators argue that most industry profit is ploughed back into dirty energy that worsens climate change.

"Oil companies have racked up billions upon billions of profit, breaking records across the board last year. Oily CEOs took home multi-million pound pay cheques," Fossil Free London said in a statement.

"The overwhelming majority of this money is going straight back into fossil fuel expansion, not the green energy they claim to support." 

TotalEnergies chief Pouyanne told the conference that "we need to give an answer" to the protesters.

"We must contribute to the fight against climate change," he said.

"There is no way to change this system in a night, but we need to be proactive and to demonstrate our commitment," he added.

Many participants were unable to access the gathering, with five demonstrators arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway and taken into custody, the police said.

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