The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Fuel Protests – Does Climate Activism Work?

Fuel Protests –Does Climate Activism Work?
07 June 2022

2022 has seen several protests at refineries and fuel terminals, causing disruption in fuel supplies. Does action of this scale help or hinder progress on stopping climate change?


The Context of the Protests – IPCC’s Assessment Report


Protest groups such as Just Stop Oil are calling for meaningful commitments from the government to stop fossil fuel production, something that they say was missing from COP26 and other subsequent emissions statements.

The protests centre on the issue of global warming, particularly as a result of the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlighted new insights on the real-life effects of global warming in our society: “People living in cities face higher risks of heat stress, reduced air quality because of wildfire, lack of water, food shortages and other impacts caused by climate change and its effect on supply chains and other critical infrastructure.

“Roughly half of the world’s population currently experiences severe water shortages at some point during the year, in part due to climate change and extreme events such as flooding and droughts.“

Food webs are also being affected as a result of global warming: “Many species are reaching limits in their ability to adapt to climate change, and those that cannot adjust or move fast enough are at risk of extinction. As a result, the distribution of plants and animals across the globe is changing and the timing of key biological events such as breeding or flowering is altering.

“In many cases, this reduces the ability of nature to provide the essential services that we depend on to survive – such as coastal protection, food supply or climate regulation via carbon uptake and storage.” 


Blocking Service Stations and Disrupting Oil Supplies – 2022’s Protests


One such protest saw Just Stop Oil blocking two service stations on the M25. Protesters blocked the entrances to the petrol pump area by sitting in the road with banners. Some also sabotaged the petrol pump by breaking the display glass and covering it with spray paint.

Activists also disrupted oil supplies from the Inter and Navigator Terminals in Essex and the Kingsbury terminal in Warwickshire, severely disrupting terminal operations. The Warwickshire action involved seven people entering the Kingsbury terminal, climbing into loading bay pipework and locking on.

The action is reminiscent of 2021’s Insulate Britain protests, where motorways were blockaded. Those affected by the resulting long delays included an ambulance that was 55 minutes late to a chest pain emergency callout, according to April 2022 court hearings.




“We’ve heard many people speculating that the disruptive protests utilised by Just Stop Oil were damaging to the climate movement. Our survey results don’t support this, finding no loss in support for key climate policies, and instead, we find that the likelihood of the UK public taking various forms of climate action has increased in the same period.”

–James Ozden

Director of Social Change Lab



Data Shows Just Stop Oil Protests Increased the Number of People in the UK Willing to Take Climate Action


Social Change Lab, a research organisation focused on understanding the impact of protest and social movements on social change, surveyed over 2,000 adults in the UK in March 2022.

The results showed that three weeks after the Just Stop Oil protests began, the number of people who were likely to talk with friends and family about climate change, contact their MP about climate issues and attend a legal protest about climate change had risen by a statistically significant amount:


  • The number of people saying that they were likely to engage in some form of climate action over the next 12 months increased from 8.7 per cent to 11.3 per cent over a 3-week period, equivalent to approximately 1.7 million adults in the UK.
  • 58 per cent of UK adults support the demands of Just Stop Oil, with only 23 per cent against and 19 per cent neutral.


Dr Ben Kenward, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University, who assisted with the research, said “We don’t know for sure what caused the increase during this period, but the fact that 63 per cent of the population has now heard about Just Stop Oil suggests it might be a factor. Further, this shows it isn't the case that these protests backfired by causing a large negative reaction in the population."

James Ozden, Director of Social Change Lab, added “We’ve heard many people speculating that the disruptive protests utilised by Just Stop Oil were damaging to the climate movement. Our survey results don’t support this, finding no loss in support for key climate policies, and instead, we find that the likelihood of the UK public taking various forms of climate action has increased in the same period.”


Public Order Bill


The recently announced Public Order Bill means that protest actions such as these will soon become criminal offences if the bill reaches Royal Assent. Interfering with “key national infrastructure, such as airports, railways and printing presses” will carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison and an unlimited fine.

Several of Just Stop Oil’s activists are already facing criminal charges – four people have pleaded not guilty to criminal damage charges at M25 fuel stations, with a court date set for 2023.

With the new powers likely to suppress protest action – might there be implications on the progression of climate change awareness?

Picture: a photograph of one of Just Stop Oil's protests. People can be seen sitting on the side of the road. A police vehicle is in the background and several police officers can also be seen. Image Credit: Just Stop Oil

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 07 June 2022


Related Articles

Building Services Contractors Must Consider Changes to Legal Liabilities 

The Building Safety Act is already changing the legal landscape for the building services profession, according to BESA. The association considers the extension of the...

 Read Full Article
Rishi Sunak’s Net-Zero Policy Changes – Industry Reactions

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has outlined new plans to dial back the UK’s net-zero policies, to mixed reactions from politicians, business groups and the general...

 Read Full Article
Will Rishi Sunak Push Back on Petrol Car Ban?

The media is awash with reports that Rishi Sunak is to dial back on key net-zero policies, including the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars. ThisWeekinFM...

 Read Full Article
LEDs in Major Eco Revamp at Edgbaston Stadium

Edgbaston has launched a new phase of a major low-energy lighting switchover that will see LED fittings and strips installed across parts of the 25,000-seater...

 Read Full Article
UK Government Introduces Day-One Right to Request Flexible Working

Millions of employees across the country are set to benefit from new legislation that means flexible working can be requested from the first day of employment. The...

 Read Full Article
UK Government Publishes Facilities Management Strategy

The government has released a guide to establishing a coordinated and aspirational FM strategy. In the document, Alex Chisholm, Chief Operating Officer for the Civil...

 Read Full Article
FMs Warned to Prepare for Fluorescent Lamp Ban

Trade association LightingEurope is urging facilities managers to hurry their buildings’ transition to LED lighting systems, ahead of the August 2023...

 Read Full Article
Inquiry Into Role of Cleaning Sector During COVID Pandemic Imminent

MPs will shortly begin a significant inquiry into the role of cleaning and hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic.   Editor's Note   The remaining...

 Read Full Article
Should There be a Legal Maximum Working Temperature?

As temperatures in Europe reach record-breaking highs, unions are calling for a legal maximum temperature for work of 25°C to be set. However, the Health and...

 Read Full Article
UK Government’s Net-Zero Strategy Ruled as ‘Unlawful’

The UK’s path to net-zero has been described as “inadequate” and “unlawful” by the High Court. Amidst the backdrop of an extreme...

 Read Full Article