Greta Thunberg: climate activist detained by police at major London oil and gas summit protest

Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered in front of a luxury hotel on Tuesday, during a major summit of oil industry leaders
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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been detained by police in London, as she took part in a protest outside a hotel hosting the heads of major oil and gas companies.

Fossil Free London organised the protest to disrupt the Energy Intelligence Forum, which is meeting at the Intercontinental London hotel near Hyde Park. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the luxury hotel on Tuesday (17 October) as the summit of industry leaders got underway - with Shell CEO Wael Sawan expected to the keynote speech.

PA reports dozens of protesters blocked Hamilton Place at both ends with banners and pink umbrellas with eyes painted on, shouting “oily money out” and “cancel the conference”, while others lit yellow and pink smoke flares. A white fence surrounded the hotel entrance to keep protesters out, while police reportedly smuggled conference attendees through the crowd of chanting activists and a samba band.

Photos on social media showed Thunberg, 20, being led away by police officers and placed in the back of a marked van on Tuesday afternoon. Fossil Free London posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Breaking - Greta Thunberg has just been arrested.” Earlier, PA reported six other people were arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway.

Before her arrest, Ms Thunberg spoke to journalists outside the hotel, saying: “The world is drowning in fossil fuels. Our hopes and dreams and lives are being washed away by a flood of greenwashing and lies.

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

Two Greenpeace activists taking part in the protest action also abseiled from the top of the five-star Mayfair hotel, unfurling a giant, 30-metre banner over its entrance reading ‘Make Big Oil Pay’.

Greenpeace activists scaled the building to unfurl a huge banner (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace)Greenpeace activists scaled the building to unfurl a huge banner (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace)
Greenpeace activists scaled the building to unfurl a huge banner (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe / Greenpeace)

Commenting on the protest, Greenpeace UK campaigner Maja Darlington said: “Oil bosses are toasting each other in a luxury hotel and plotting how to make even larger profits, while millions struggle to rebuild after a summer of extreme weather. Big oil is profiting from humanity’s loss and those who have done the least to cause climate change are being forced to pay the price

“People are sick of watching their energy bills rise and the injustice of floods and wildfires around the world while their elected officials rub shoulders with oil bosses in Mayfair. Letting oil companies like Shell decide our planet's future is like putting an arsonist in charge of a fire station," she continued.

Greenpeace said it was time to get the "oily influence" out of UK politics, "and make Big Oil pay for the millions losing lives and livelihoods because of this industry’s ruthless pursuit of profit".

Fossil Free London director Robin said the fossil fuel industry has known about the damage they were causing to the planet for decades, "but they covered up the evidence and funded misinformation to prevent action and protect their profits".

"That's why we're targeting the biggest annual gathering of fossil fuel companies here in London. We need them and their oily money out of our politics and out of the climate negotiations at COP28 next month."

Climate campaigners have been hitting out at fossil fuel companies after British Gas owner Centrica revealed earnings at its retail supplier business soared by nearly 900% - to £969 million - in the six months to 30 June. Meanwhile Shell announced its profits had fallen, but it still raked in £3.9 billion over the last quarter.

This came as Summer 2023 was officially the hottest ever recorded, with temperature records "not just broken but smashed". Scientists have urged world leaders to make drastic cuts to fossil fuel use at the upcoming COP28 climate summit, to prevent the very worst effects of warming temperatures before it is too late.

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