Insulate Britain’s ‘show trials’ expose state efforts to silence activists

Insulate Britain M25 roadblock September 2021. Image: Insulate Britain.
Insulate Britain M25 roadblock September 2021. Image: Insulate Britain.

Original article by Rob Stuart republished from openDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

OPINION: An activist is in jail for mentioning the climate crisis in court. Our judicial system is enabling the state

This week we were delivered the strongest evidence yet that the court cases of Insulate Britain members are little more than show trials – in which the defendant’s guilt has already been determined.

David Nixon, a fellow Insulate Britain supporter, was handed an eight-week sentence for merely mentioning the climate crisis during his trial for participating in a roadblock in 2021.

Judge Silas Reid had ordered Nixon to avoid talking about the climate and ecological emergency. He said, “This is not a trial about climate change, fuel poverty, etc. Matters relating to that are not relevant.”

Nixon disagreed, and used his closing speech to tell jurors: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. That is why we sat in the road, to tell the truth about the direction we are heading in and prompt action before it’s too late.”

That this was enough to warrant his imprisonment is absurd – and raises serious questions about this country’s judicial system.

A life-changing experience

In October 2021, I also took action with Insulate Britain. We brought large sections of the M25 and other major roads to a standstill in order to raise awareness of fuel poverty and the climate and ecological emergency.

I now have three separate charges relating to these actions. I am due to stand trial in May, June and one last time in November. By then, two full years will have passed since I sat down in the road in defence of people and planet.

As a first time defendant, this has been a life-changing experience. I had never been in trouble with the law before 2019, and I acknowledge now that I have lived a relatively privileged life in that regard. As a white, middle-class man, I regret not recognising sooner the suffering of others less fortunate than me at the hands of the state.

My faith in the legal and judicial system of this country has been severely shaken. I have felt harassed and persecuted by the state as both my reputation and my livelihood have been unduly threatened. My name and address has been published online by the authorities, endangering not only myself but my family as well. Of course, my mental health has suffered.

Those who advocate for change now face even greater challenges than ever before as they risk prosecution under the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. As if that were not enough, the regime is now trying to push through its equally notorious Public Order Bill, which will give police officers even more power to crack down on protests.

If jurors can’t hear why a ‘crime’ was committed, are they there just to rubber-stamp the state’s decision?

Though neither bill had come into law at the time of my arrest, I could have reasonably expected a statutory charge of wilful obstruction under the Highways Act or an injunction under the Anti-social Behaviour Act. But neither was invoked against me.

Instead, the prosecution chose to break with legal tradition by pursuing the archaic common law offence of causing a public nuisance. This is worrying – if a charge is not defined in statute, there are no prosecution guidelines to follow.

The decision had abhorrent consequences. According to the judiciary, public nuisance is interested only in the consequences of an action, i.e. whether we supporters of Insulate Britain had caused a nuisance to the public. There is no consideration at all of the circumstances of the action, i.e. our motivations for doing what we did.

Insulate Britain supporters are not arguing that we did not cause any inconvenience or disruption to the public – that would be completely disingenuous. We are arguing that we did what we believed was necessary to sound the alarm on fuel poverty and the climate and ecological emergency. We hoped the UK government would heed our demands.

Let us be clear, it is not a lack of popular demand or technological solutions that keeps rich nations such as the UK from addressing the climate and ecological emergency. We could solve this problem if there was the political will to do so.

By denying the circumstances of our actions, I believe Judge Reid and his associates knew that we defendants would not be able to defend ourselves. We cannot minimise our actions (and neither would we want to) and yet we cannot explain ourselves either, without risking contempt of court. The scales of justice seem distinctly one-sided.

If the diverse range of legal and moral arguments in an (alleged) crime of conscience cannot be presented in front of a jury, one must ask what purpose a jury serves. Are jurors there simply to rubber stamp a guilty verdict that has already been decided since before the defendant’s arrest?

A lack of transparency

Last week another Insulate Britain supporter, Stephanie Aylett, narrowly avoided a custodial sentence after also being charged with contempt. Afterwards, she said: “It horrified me that Judge Reid deliberately stripped away all our legal defences and told us that we would be in contempt of court if we spoke about our motivations, strategy or aims.”

Aylett continued: “He prevented us from mentioning climate change or talking about any scientific evidence. It is incredibly difficult to explain the actions we took without being allowed to mention why we did such a bizarre thing.”

I am concerned about a lack of transparency over who had the authority to determine that we would be charged with public nuisance and what process, if any, was followed in reaching this decision.

The government appears to be investing more energy into silencing climate activists than implementing climate solutions

I have learned that many important decisions are made behind closed doors in secretive ‘case management hearings’ up and down the country. The existence of these hearings is not common knowledge, I am aware of them because I have been required to attend several over the past year. In my opinion they are wide open to abuse.

If there was any justice, I would not be facing charges. It would not have been necessary for me to sit down in the road to raise awareness of the climate and ecological emergency. The individuals who place profit before people and the planet would already be behind bars.

Instead, the current regime appears to be investing more energy into silencing climate activists than implementing climate solutions, such as decent home insulation that would benefit millions of ordinary people during the cost of living crisis.

This government does not represent the people, but rather the CEOs and shareholders of big business. They rule by fear, intimidation and coercion.

A few years ago, it would have been completely unheard of for a defendant to be handed a prison sentence for simply mentioning the climate crisis in a court of law. And yet here we are. As children we were warned to remain vigilant to the threat of fascism. It is time to heed those warnings.

Original article by Rob Stuart republished from openDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingInsulate Britain’s ‘show trials’ expose state efforts to silence activists

Sunak under fire over second jet flight for UK trip in a week

Rishi Sunak has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money and making a mockery of the government’s strategy for tackling the climate crisis, after chartering a second private jet for a UK trip within a week.

The prime minister took a roughly 90-minute ride in an RAF plane to Scotland for a two-day visit, where he held a meeting with the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and announced the opening of two new freeports.

Both leaders met in Inverness, before Sunak headed to nearby Port of Cromarty Firth to mark the announcement about plans for a green freeport there. He headed back to Downing Street on Friday afternoon.

Continue ReadingSunak under fire over second jet flight for UK trip in a week

Endless debates about soup and paintings serve those who’d prefer we ignore the climate crisis

Just Stop Oil activists with their hands glued to the wall after throwing tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery. Photograph: Just Stop Oil/AFP/Getty Images. dizzy: I’m assuming that this is a JSO image really.

Zoe Williams

Opponents of meaningful action are trying to sidestep the immediacy of the threat to our planet

Expert opinion is settled and public opinion united on the urgency of climate action. If our politics or our discourse were in any way functional, there would be no confusion, no debate. We would simply be proceeding from one bold practical action to the next, following the blueprints laid out by the Climate Change Committee.

Instead, we have energy policies stitched together from reheated cliches, which on the one hand doesn’t matter, since no prime minister has been stable or focused enough to iterate them since Brexit, but on the other hand does matter. There is nothing more depressing than to go back to Amber Rudd’s “energy reset” speech of 2015: what if, instead of dismissing renewables incentives as “Blairite”, she’d actually taken them seriously and built on them? What if she’d pushed energy-efficient homes instead of the “unfettered market”, what if she’d made a plan to reduce dependence on gas from Vladimir Putin rather than increase it? “Spoiler alert,” wrote the renewables entrepreneur Bruce Davis at the time: “this doesn’t end well for bill payers.” And nor has it.

Obviously, Conservatives are only interested in their own internal dumb-and-dumber popularity contests, and cannot be trusted to make sound, long-term decisions in the national interest. They degrade everything in public life. But they only get away with this because of the discursive cover provided by pointless debates about climate action.

Continue ReadingEndless debates about soup and paintings serve those who’d prefer we ignore the climate crisis

Climate Crisis Reality Check (2)

The Paris Agreement 2015 is the latest international treaty on climate change.
Quoted from wikipedia 
The Paris Agreement's long-term temperature goal is to keep the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels, and preferably limit the increase to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), recognizing that this would substantially reduce the effects of climate change. Emissions should be reduced as soon as possible and reach net-zero by the middle of the 21st century.[3] To stay below 1.5 °C of global warming, emissions need to be cut by roughly 50% by 2030. This is an aggregate of each country's nationally determined contributions. 
According to the 2020 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the current climate commitments of the Paris Agreement, global mean temperatures will likely rise by more than 3 °C by the end of the 21st century.
Countries determine themselves what contributions they should make to achieve the aims of the treaty. As such, these plans are called nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
In 2021, a study using a probabilistic model concluded that the rates of emissions reductions would have to increase by 80% beyond NDCs to likely meet the 2 °C upper target of the Paris Agreement, that the probabilities of major emitters meeting their NDCs without such an increase is very low. It estimated that with current trends the probability of staying below 2 °C of warming is 5% – and 26% if NDCs were met and continued post-2030 by all signatories.

The message from the above quotations is
1. The Paris Agreement is an attempt to limit climate change effects by keeping global mean (average) temperatures below 1.5C or 2C.
2. We are likely looking at global temperature rises between 2C and over 3C by the end of the century. 

We are currently at 1.1 or 1.2C global mean temperature above pre-industrial levels. There are extreme climate events now never mind at 1.5, 2 or over 3C. 

2022 saw record-breaking heat in UK while there were heatwaves and vast wildfires in North America, record-breaking temperatures and huge wildfires across France and Western Europe, huge drought followed by severe flooding in Pakistan, repeated flooding in Eastern Australia and currently East Africa is suffering the worst drought in decades.  

We are in a climate crisis at 1.2C. The crisis is now. 

The main cause of global warming is the use of fossil fuels. The best response to the climate crisis is to stop the use of fossil fuels as much as we possibly can and to transition to renewable sources of energy instead. This would also involve a programme of insulation to reduce the use of fossil fuels. 

Politicians worldwide are neglecting to address the climate crisis in any meaningful way. The protest group Just Stop Oil is calling for no new development of fossil fuels. Grant Shapps, UK's Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is so totally out of touch that he's not even familiar with Just Stop Oil's objectives: “I’ve no issue with people arguing for lower levels of petrol, gas or whatever other thing they want to campaign for usage, that is fine, that is one thing. But don’t go disrupting other people’s lives - it’s unacceptable, it’s illegal!”, the Business Secretary said.  

Young people particularly should get active opposing climate destruction because it's fekking their futures and otherwise they're just going to keep on getting totally disregarded, shat on. Extreme weather events at 1.2C are so serious, 3C may well lead to extinction and next to nothing is being done to prevent it.

Some links - try searching for your own e.g. extreme weather events 2022
Met Office: Unprecedented extreme heatwave (UK), July 2022
Analysis: Africa’s unreported extreme weather in 2022 and climate change
Over 20,000 died in western Europe’s summer heatwaves, figures show

16/12/22 Climate Reality Check 2021

Continue ReadingClimate Crisis Reality Check (2)

My day with Just Stop Oil

I travelled to London on Monday to protest with Just Stop Oil (JSO). It was supposed to be the last day of their month of October actions and so it was my last opportunity to participate and show solidarity with them. I didn’t know at the time that JSO activists had targeted MI5, Bank of England and News Corp that day. They then had a 32nd day of action on the first of November that targeted Downing Street. I had wanted to join them from the start of October but simply wasn’t able to for weeks because of commitments involving an elderly person needing support.

I arrived at about 11.30, half an hour later than JSO’s meeting time. I was very pleased to find them near the Department of Defence opposite Downing Street. I was worried that I might not find them and would be wasting hours wandering around London until I could catch my booked coach back.

There were about 35 of us from all over the UK. Ages were from late teens and I would say about 70% like me fifty or over, some able to be there because they were retired and still fit. There were about three wearing Christian dog-collars. I recognised one from an image of him used on this blog before.

Image of a Just Stop Oil participant getting arrested at Kingsbury oil terminal.
A Just Stop Oil participant getting arrested at Kingsbury oil terminal. A JSO / Vladamir Morozov image.

I’m going to end this quickly because I’m suffering from a temporary health condition (Baker’s cysts) that causes a lot of pain. My reasoning is affected because of the pain and the painkillers that I’m taking.

JSO activists have no choice but to cause disruption. The climate crisis is a huge, real and immediate crisis.

JSO are very concerned with the safety of their participants. Marches are stewarded very well.

There is a choice to get arrested or not. JSO know the boundaries, how far they can push it until they are arrested. I was marching in the area around Parliament. Although there were arrests, those arrested were willing to be arrested.

Leafleting for JSO is challenging because you meet people who have a go at you.

JSO were not keen on letting me have the megaphone because they didn’t know me and didn’t know what I was going to say in the presence of many police officers.

There is a policy of getting out of the way of emergency vehicles despite what Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and others claim.

Just Stop Oil’s Phoebe Plummer who threw soup on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London.
The painting is undamaged because it was behind glass.

ed: Just Stop Oil’s demand is no NEW oil or gas.

Continue ReadingMy day with Just Stop Oil

Fossil fools: Why governments are not addressing the climate crisis :: DRAFT subject to revision Revision 7

[3/11/22 I’m suffering from a temporary health condition [4/11/22: Baker’s cysts] which is very painful. I’m not thinking straight and find myself shouting at people on the radio, etc because of the pain. I may have lost my way with this and it’s probably best that I leave it for a while.]

This is the article the earlier Coming soon relates to. It is getting revised and elaborated. This is my understanding and judgement. I am not claiming that it is wholly correct but it is approaching it.

Every adult has a responsibility to future generations. Current governments are woefully failing that responsibility through neglecting to address the climate crisis. There are many reasons for this which I am trying to identify in this article.

Public (private) education

Privately-funded education in UK is incorrectly called public education so that you have public schools which are actually private fee-paying schools that rich people send their children to. It is generally a high standard of education, far higher than the real pubic free schooling system provided by the government and financed through taxation.

In addition to academic achievements public school students are taught how to rule, to be in charge. Many UK politicians – particularly Conservative or ‘Tory’ politicians – are privately educated with some attending the elite Eton public school before progressing to study PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at the highly regarded Oxford University. By contrast I was educated at many different state-run schools, left school having completed O-levels at 16 and later achieved a BSc at a polytechnic and later again a MSc at the same polytechnic which by then had converted to a post-polytechnic university. I am quite capable in different ways through my experiences and despite receiving a less than first-class educational experience.

Three aspects of the education that public school students receive in addition to the academic education – often called the ‘hidden curriculum’ – are (i) that they should be concerned only with their own welfare, (ii) that they should trust and act on their intuition disregarding and regardless of evidence to the contrary, and (iii) that they will never be held to account for their actions. These three taught aspects have awful consequences for the World since they lead to neglecting to address the climate crisis.

There is a phrase “A gentleman never lies”. What this means is that public schoolboys are never accused of lying. They do lie of course – look at Tony ‘Bliar’ Blair and Boris Johnson. Lying was Boris Johnson’s first instinct – you would be nearer the truth by believing the exact opposite of anything he said. I was out drinking and fraternising locally and this posh public schoolboy student was taking the piss out of me. He was probably a student of law or something similar. So he’s repeating to me “I’m not taking the piss out of you.” as he was taking the piss out of my beauty mark, being hugely personally insulting. So I’m repeating back “That’s exactly what you’re doing.” It’s impolite to accuse somebody of lying of course but he was a total cnut trying to invoke personal stigma not understanding the accusation of being a liar because he had never experienced that.

These posh boys are also never contradicted so that they exist in some parallel universe. Blair may well have believed in weapons of mass destruction because he had poor abilities judgement abilities. The richer they are the more detatched from reality they are. People suck up to them. You never discuss prices with these posh boys because money is not an issue for them, they’re rolling in it.

These are the people in charge, really nasty people who don’t care about anyone else, appear concerned only with the immediate, don’t seem to take anything seriously and enjoy humiliating plebs like me. I can’t say that they’re all like that of course but that’s how they’ve been moulded so it would be difficult for them to not be. So, back to the main issue here: Why governments are not addressing the climate crisis. These are the people in charge who control governments. These are the people with superyachts, the people who fly around the World in private jets who just don’t care about anyone or anything except themselves. It might be fairer to say that it is the elite of this elite that is the problem, the 1% of the 1% who depend on big oil and gas to keep them rich and powerful. What sort of cnut do you have to be to take part in space tourism?

Elite education may have been appropriate in the era of Empire but is totally inappropriate now. Elite establishments should use their lead to teach compassion, co-operation and respect for all. I appreciate that state school teachers are constrained in how they can behave and what they can teach. School students should not be bullied for being poor, independent or free-thinking as was my experience. State school teachers and lecturers need to respect students’ human rights, help young people develop their potential and encourage participation in the democratic process.

The very concept of childhood is relatively recent and even today doesn’t exist in much of the World. Children are not educated and through poverty are forced to work in much of the World.

I started this article by stating that every adult has a responsibility to future generations. Privately educated Rish! Sunak has more of a responsibility than all other UK adults since he is UK prime minister. However, by chosing to neglect the climate crisis and by actually accelerating climate destruction he is even neglecting his responsibility to his own two daughters.

Climate activists are challenged while climate destroyers are not. Where are the questions Why are you destroying the planet? You’re promoting space tourism that causes … why are you doing that? Do you realise that this superyacht causes … ?

  • Fossil Fuels 
  • The fossil fuel industry has deliberately developed contemporary societies to be hugely dependent on oil and gas. UK is an oil-dependent society rather than an industrial or any other society.
  • Politicians are so close to the fossil fuel industry that it is difficult to distinguish them.
  • There is a lack of imagination, politicians and others cannot imagine anything other than oil-dependency. There are alternative, renewable sources of energy that are cleaner and cheaper and do not cause climate destruction.

Continue ReadingFossil fools: Why governments are not addressing the climate crisis :: DRAFT subject to revision Revision 7

Greenpeace to Rishi Sunak: Tax Fossil Fuel Profits and Lower Energy Bills Now

Dozens of climate and energy justice campaigners call for a stronger windfall profits tax to fund home insulation and renewable power generation from inside the U.K. Parliament in London on October 24, 2022. (Photo: Suzanne Plunkett/Greenpeace)

[The situation on fracking has changed since this article was published 3 days ago. The new UK government under Rishi Sunak has made clear that fracking is not permitted in UK.] Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

“Delay has cost lives. Chaos costs lives. And it will cost more lives this winter and every winter,” campaigners say. “No one benefits except the oil and gas profiteers.”

KENNY STANCILOctober 24, 2022

Hours after lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party voted to make Rishi Sunak the United Kingdom’s third prime minister this year, more than 30 climate and energy justice activists occupied the lobby of Parliament to demand that the government fund home insulation and renewable power generation through a more robust tax on oil and gas corporations’ windfall profits.

Almost seven million people in the U.K.—nearly a quarter of the country’s population—are facing fuel poverty as winter quickly approaches. Meanwhile, heavily subsidized fossil fuel giants are raking in record profits, which they use to block policies that would facilitate a green transition and rein in their destructive industry.

Greenpeace campaigners, armed with sky-high utility bills from across the country, read the testimonies of people struggling to make ends meet amid a historic cost-of-living crisis that Sunak’s right-wing predecessors—Boris Johnson and Liz Truss—and Tory colleagues have, according to progressive critics, exacerbated through adherence to neoliberal orthodoxy.

Stressing that “chaos costs lives,” activists made the case for simultaneously addressing soaring energy prices and the worsening climate emergency by taxing fossil fuel profits and using the revenue to invest in better residential insulation and expanded clean energy production.

“Thanks to spiraling gas prices and the oldest, coldest housing in Europe, millions of people are being pushed into fuel poverty,” Greenpeace U.K. noted in a blog post. “People across the country have waited for government after government to provide enough help to lower their energy bills—but mostly what we’ve had is political chaos.”

The group continued:

Rising energy bills and cold homes will cost lives. The U.K. already has the sixth highest rate of excess winter deaths in Europe. Higher bills also disproportionately impact disabled and older people, people of color, and those from impoverished communities. For instance, many medical and mobility devices require electricity. Meaning, on average, disabled people have much higher energy bills just for using equipment they need in their day-to-day lives. Political leaders have failed to put people first and provide sufficient support for the energy crisis.

It’s political choices that have caused the levels of inequality and fuel poverty we’re facing. If this government properly taxed record fossil fuel profits, it could help fund extra support for those in need, and help pay for a nationwide program to insulate homes. Instead, the last six weeks have seen u-turns on the Conservative manifesto pledge on fracking and new commitments to North Sea oil and gas, which will wreck our climate and won’t lower our bills.

Two months ago, the U.K. Treasury estimated that the nation’s energy firms are poised to enjoy up to £170 billion ($191.9 billion) in excess profits—defined as the gap between money made now and what would have been expected based on price forecasts prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—over the next two years.

A 25% windfall tax on oil and gas producers approved in July is expected to raise £5 billion ($5.6 billion) in its first year. However, the existing surtax on excess fossil fuel profits contains loopholes allowing companies to drastically reduce their tax bill by investing more in oil and gas extraction, which the industry claims will boost supply. The recently enacted windfall tax, which lasts through 2025, also exempts eletricity generators, even though Treasury officials attribute roughly two-fifths of the £170 billion in excess profits to such actors.

With winter energy bills projected to triple compared with last year, calls are growing in the U.K. to increase the windfall tax rate on excess fossil fuel profits and extend it to electricity generators benefiting from rising oil and gas prices.

While Truss vehemently opposed windfall taxes—asserting that they “send the wrong message to investors”—Sunak introduced the current windfall tax in May when he was Johnson’s chancellor of the exchequer.

According to Greenpeace, Monday’s action was meant to show Sunak that “he can’t ignore the almost seven million households facing fuel poverty.”

The life-threatening crises of surging utility bills and unmitigated greenhouse gas pollution are both caused by fossil fuel dependence, the group noted. Consequently, these problems have lifesaving solutions that are straightforward and aligned.

“To lower our bills long-term and reduce our emissions,” Greenpeace urged Sunak to do the following:

  • Commit to investing £6 billion [$6.8 billion] immediately to kickstart a street-by-street insulation program to keep bills low for good;
  • Shift to renewable energy, like wind and solar, which are cheaper and quicker to build than oil and gas; and
  • Properly tax oil and gas companies’ excess profits so they pay their fair share, given how much money they’ve made off these crises.

“It’s time we have a government that brings down bills for good and plays its part in tackling the climate crisis,” the group added.

On social media, Greenpeace encouraged people to sign a petition imploring U.K. lawmakers to “keep people warm this winer.”

“Delay has cost lives. Chaos costs lives. And it will cost more lives this winter and every winter,” the group emphasized. “No one benefits except the oil and gas profiteers. If the government were on the people’s side, the U.K. really could get on track to quitting oil, gas, and sky-high energy bills, forever.”

Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Continue ReadingGreenpeace to Rishi Sunak: Tax Fossil Fuel Profits and Lower Energy Bills Now

Just Stop Oil continues Westminster occupation

Just Stop Oil confirms that it is continuing to occupy Westminster.

Continue ReadingJust Stop Oil continues Westminster occupation