Treasury still funding climate death as iconic fire engine trial starts - Extinction Rebellion UK

Treasury still funding climate death as iconic fire engine trial starts


Phone: +44(0)7756136396

Action pictures:

Six climate protectors go on trial at Southwark Crown Court tomorrow (Monday 18 September, 2023) for conspiracy to commit criminal damage to His Majesty’s Treasury building on 3 October 2019 when 1,800 litres of fake blood were sprayed over the premises from a fire engine. [1]

The dramatic spectacle – which made the front pages around the world – was planned to draw attention to the Treasury’s funding of new fossil fuel projects abroad which would result in deaths from climate breakdown.

The fake blood was made from water coloured with food dye so it would be easily washed off the building. Yet the CPS is claiming clean up costs of £17,000 and the defendants face sentences of up to ten years in prison each if they are found guilty by the jury.

Why ordinary citizens took this action

At the action, banners reading “STOP FUNDING CLIMATE DEATH” were displayed and the slogan was stencilled onto the walls of the building at 1 Horse Guards Road, Westminster, London.

The protest was designed to spotlight the role of the Treasury in financing climate breakdown in the wake of the parliamentary Environment Audit Committee’s revelation that the Treasury was allowing [2] the UK Export Finance (UKEF) department to underwrite new fossil fuel projects abroad with billions of pounds of public money. [3]

In 2018-2019 UKEF support for fossil fuel projects increased eleven-fold in one year to £2 billion. [4] And from 2013/14 to 2017/18 UKEF spent £2.6 billion on such projects. [5] This support has enabled projects worth many more times this amount get off the ground, locking low-income countries into high-carbon pathways and debt. [6]

Funding projects that will kill the global community’s aspiration of keeping temperature rises below a global average of 1.5C means the Treasury is implicated in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the wrecking of our children’s future.

Four years on the Treasury is still funding climate death

In a belated show of leadership, the UK announced it would be ending all financial support for overseas fossil fuel projects in December 2020. [7] However UKEF continue to underwrite aviation projects with £8.3bn of public money in the year ending 2021, £2 billion in year-end 2022, and a total of £18 billion since the Paris Agreement. [8] This will lock countries into high-carbon pathways for decades to come.

This partial course correction has not been mirrored domestically where the Treasury walks hand in hand with the Prime Minister in supporting new oil and gas developments in the North Sea. These projects are incompatible with keeping global average temperature rise to below 1.5C [9].

In May 2021 the treasury introduced tax relief for new oil and gas developments of 91p in the pound [10]. This tax relief was estimated to amount to £11.4bn in subsidies over five years. [11]

Besides pumping public money into new North Sea oil and gas projects, the treasury has been encouraging banks to do the same. [12] [13] 

The development of just one of those fields, Rosebank, would breach the UK’s carbon budget from its production emissions alone [14]; produce more carbon emissions than the 28 lowest-income countries combined when the oil is burned; and lose the taxpayer over three quarters of a billion pounds. [15]

The government also provides tax relief for the cost of decommissioning North Sea Oil platforms. The UK’s tax relief commitment for the period 2021 to 2066 in this regard is estimated to total £19.9 billion. [16]

As a combined result of various tax breaks and subsidies, BP and Shell received more money back from the UK government than they paid in tax during the years 2015 to 2020 (except Shell in 2017). [17]

The Treasury needs a course correction

New research shows the UK is one of the five top countries responsible for the majority of planned expansion of new oil and gas fields through 2050. These countries also have “the greatest economic means and moral responsibility to rapidly phase out production”. [18]

A recent peer-reviewed analysis concludes we need to keep 60% of existing fossil fuel reserves in actively producing fields in the ground to keep within 1.5C. [19]

At the same time UK offshore wind capacity ground to a standstill last week with not a single bid being made to develop new projects in the latest government auction. [20]

As the UN’s Global Stocktake report made clear, to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown we need to get on a fast track to a clean, renewable energy economy. Aligning government financial flows is central to this challenge. [21] 

As global protests took place in 50 countries over the weekend to demand world leaders phase out fossil fuels at the UN climate summit this week and COP 28 in December, UK leadership is missing in action. [22]

The trial

At the pre trial hearing on 1st September Judge Justin Mark Cole indicated that he was minded to rule on which defences would be available to the defendants after the prosecution at the earliest and perhaps not until after the defence case. The prosecution indicated they will argue the judge should rule sooner i.e. before jury comes in.

Recently judges have been using new case law to shut down the defences available to those who undertake nonviolent civil disobedience, leaving defendants unable to present the motivation for their actions to a jury in a clear manner, if at all. Three people have been sent to jail for contempt of court for mentioning the words “climate change” and “fuel poverty”. [23] [24]

The trial is listed for four weeks.

What the defendants say

Cathy Eastburn, musician, from South London, 56: “I’m proud to have taken part in this powerfully symbolic and memorable action, which shone a spotlight on the Treasury’s financing of fossil fuel projects around the world. I took this action because I want to ensure a liveable future for my children and children everywhere. Four years on, we face trial and possibly prison for this necessary, appropriate and proportionate action. Is this trial really in the public interest? How about prosecuting the real criminals: those who are continuing to invest millions in new fossil fuel projects, knowing full well this ties us all into a future of accelerating climate breakdown and societal collapse?”

Liam Norton, electrician from South London, 38: “I took part in the action against the treasury in 2019 because I was resisting a government who were actively destroying a society they were first and foremost there to protect. UKEF who were also in the building we targeted invest billions into fossil fuel projects in the global south which is morally indefensible. As citizens what choice do we have when we see our own governments display such blatant criminality? We must resist them with nonviolence.”

Daniel Blackmore, full time carer from Devon, 32: “I’m feeling nervous about this court case. It will be the first time I have attended court other than pre-trail hearings. This case has been going on for four years and it has caused me a lot of anxiety. Despite this I’m proud of what I did and I hope that the jury will see why this was not a criminal act but a necessary action to take in the climate and ecological emergency we are currently in.”

Notes to editors:

[1] Original press release:

[2] According to its own annual report and accounts: “UKEF’s statutory powers … may only be exercised with the consent of HM Treasury. HM Treasury sets a financial framework comprising financial objectives and reporting requirements, within which UKEF operates.”

[3] Environment Audit Committee report on UKEF:

[4] UK committed nearly £2bn to fossil fuel projects abroad last year:

[5] UK Government Agency’s Annual Support for Overseas Fossil Fuel Projects Rises to £2bn:

[6] What are Export Credit Agencies?

[7] PM announces the UK will end support for fossil fuel sector overseas, 12 December 2020:

UKEF press release says “The UK ended all financial support for overseas fossil fuel projects in March 2021.”

[8] Aviation Industry Awarded £18 Billion of Public Finance Since Paris Agreement:

[9] New fossil fuels ‘incompatible’ with 1.5C goal, comprehensive analysis finds:

[10] Fossil fuel subsidies are not the answer to the energy crisis:

[11] UK Windfall tax loophole explained:

[12] Treasury to encourage banks to fund North Sea oil and gas, despite Net Zero commitment:

[13] Banks to snub Treasury meeting as UK oil and gas sector struggles for financing:

[14] New oilfield in the North Sea would blow the UK’s carbon budget:

Rosebank oil field would bust climate targets, according to new analysis:

[15] UK set to make huge tax loss from Rosebank, as Equinor announces billions in profits

[16] Estimates of the remaining Exchequer cost of decommissioning UK upstream oil and gas infrastructure, North Sea Transition Authority, (March 2022):

[17] What is the windfall tax on oil and gas companies and how much do they pay?

[18] New Research Exposes 5 Global North Countries Responsible for 51% of Planned Oil and Gas Expansion Through 2050

[19] Sky’s Limit Data Update: Shut Down 60% of Existing Fossil Fuel Extraction to Keep 1.5°C in Reach:

[20] No bids for offshore wind in government auction:

[21] UN Global Stocktake, September 2023:

[22] Global climate protests demand world leaders phase out fossil fuels

[23] Insulate Britain activist jailed for eight weeks for contempt of court

[24] Activists jailed for seven weeks for defying ban on mentioning climate crisis

About Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Donate | Support our work
What Emergency? | Read about the true scale of the climate crisis
XR UK Local Groups | View a map of all local groups
XR UK website | Find out more about XRUK
XR Global website | Discover what’s going on in XR around the globe!

Time has almost entirely run out to address the climate and ecological crisis which is upon us, including the sixth mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, leading to societal collapse and mass loss of life. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

Sign up for news