The speech I gave at my Just Stop Oil trial
Di, Oli, Alan, Paul, Harley, Jon and I gave testimonies at trial on Wednesday.
Judge Wilkinson responded with an extraordinary speech that’s quoted towards the end of this press release.
Here’s why I disrupted an Esso oil terminal for 11 hours last April.
My daughter Robyn will turn three next week.
But she very nearly didn’t exist.
You might have heard that young people don’t want children because of the climate crisis.
That was me. I agonised over whether it was fair to bring a child into this world.
- Will I be able to protect them?
- Will they grow up in an unstable, dangerous world?
- Will they resent me for having them, despite knowing what they’ll face?
Eventually, and with some uncertainty, we decided to have just one child.
Since Robyn was born we’ve spent every Thursday together.
We spend most days outdoors, collecting leaves, talking to “woof woofs”, and discussing endlessly about “why”.
Why are leaves green? Why does the moon come out at night?
She is a perfect, tiny human.
I love her so much.
She has done nothing to deserve the future that we’re currently all facing with 2.4° of warming.
She does not deserve to live in fear of food shortages and rationing.
But by the time she’s 30, many countries we import food from will be too hot for growing crops. The Global Center for Adaptation forecasts a global yield reduction of up to 30% by 2050. And that’s with a projected additional 2 billion mouths to feed.
She does not deserve to see her home, Liverpool, ruined by rising sea levels and worsening storm floods.
But by 30, the street where we live is predicted to be underwater once a year, according to the IPCC’s 2021 leading consensus model.
Robyn doesn’t deserve a society that’s polarised by the impossible stress of hundreds of millions of climate refugees.
But by the time she’s 30, there will be between 25 million and one billion climate migrants, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.
As I watch her little mind growing, I think about her grasping the climate situation like I did.
She’s going to say to me,
“Dad, you knew this would happen. What were you doing? Did you do everything you could?”
I need a good answer.
I gave up my car and spend thousands a year on trains.
I stopped eating beef and lamb, the highest emitting foods.
I spent £1000s and hundreds of hours insulating our home.
I invested my savings in renewable energy co-operatives.
I stopped flying and faced the idea I may never leave Europe again.
I joined the Green Party, I wrote to my MP, went on marches, and signed petitions.
I did all these things, but global emissions kept going up.
The IPCC kept publishing reports, and they kept getting worse.
And our Government kept granting new fossil fuels licences.
That means giving permission to dig up brand new oil and gas from the north sea.
So what’s wrong with that?
Remember how the Government declared a climate emergency in 2019?
We committed, in law, to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050.
But Net Zero by 2050 is not compatible with granting new fossil fuel licences.
The IPCC and the International Energy Agency are the world’s independent experts. They say that to achieve Net Zero by 2050, there should be no new fossil fuel licences.
So our Government set a goal in law, but is acting in a way that means we will not meet that goal.
At the start of 2022, the Government had approved 40 new fossil fuel projects.
The emissions from those new fossil fuels will be equal to three times that of the whole UK.
As the metaphor goes, the house was on fire, but we just kept throwing on petrol.
I felt guilty for being part of the problem.
I felt bitter that people in our Government must know how urgent the situation is, but are too cowardly to upset the status quo.
I felt anger that fossil fuel companies spend millions of dollars funding climate deniers. Corrupting our democratic process.
But most of all I felt hopeless and I felt despair.
I was watching us lurch towards the edge of the cliff, but was powerless to stop it.
What else could I do?
How could I look my daughter in the eye, and tell her I did what I could?
I heard about a thing called Just Stop Oil.
They had a simple demand of Government.
Stop granting new fossil fuel licences.
This wasn’t a radical or unreasonable demand.
It’s exactly what the IPCC and the International Energy Agency have said is necessary.
So that was Just Stop Oil’s demand.
Their tactics were simple, and borrowed from history.
The same tactics that got women the right to vote, and all races to be considered equal in the US.
Protest in a way that the government can’t ignore.
Force them to negotiate the demand.
Then came the uncomfortable bit
They were asking me to get arrested.
I didn’t much like the sound of that…
It didn’t sound like me!
I’m an Engineering graduate, a business owner, a hands-on dad.
The only brush I’d had with the law was a speeding ticket when I was 17.
This all seemed very extreme.
It wasn’t for me. I said I’d help out with leaflets and “think about it.”
But over time, I met a few more people involved with Just Stop Oil.
They weren’t what I was expecting. They were… gentle, principled people.
Vicars, teachers, nurses.
Doing this because it’s necessary, not because they enjoy protesting.
At one point, I heard someone ask:
“What are you more afraid of, getting arrested or the climate emergency?”
That was a hard thing to face up to.
I was afraid of getting arrested, and the consequences, of course I was.
But if I was honest with myself, there was no comparison.
Of course it’s the climate emergency. It terrifies me.
It’s just easier to ignore because it’s creeping up on us slowly.
Getting arrested is an extreme thing to do.
But we are in extreme danger.
The more I thought about it, the more reasonable and necessary it seemed.
Successive Governments had ignored the protests and the petitions.
The normal democratic process had failed. The situation had become an emergency.
I felt that I had no choice.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. The day after my arrest, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a speeech:
…most major emitters are not taking the steps needed to fulfil even these inadequate promises.
Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals.
But, the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.
We rely on our Government to protect us.
It’s their most important duty.
But they aren’t doing that.
They are contradicting the IPCC and the International Energy Agency.
By granting new fossil fuel licences, they are destroying our future.
I didn’t want to sit on the road for hours in minus 1 degrees
I didn’t want to get arrested.
I didn’t want to be here today.
But I had to demand that the government protects us.
I had to tell them to listen to the desperate cries of their own scientists and experts.
And I had to demand that they stop granting new fossil fuel licences.
Taking action with Just Stop Oil.
This was something I could do.
This is what I can say to Robyn.
My daughter’s name has been changed to protect her identity.