Activists mounted fresh climate protests around Europe this week, reminding fossil fuel developers that new projects will not go ahead without a fight despite rising public concern about fuel costs and energy security.

In London, supporters of the grassroots Just Stop Oil coalition sprayed red paint over government buildings in protest against a decision by ministers to finally give the go ahead to Shell’s Jackdaw gas development in the central North Sea, which had earlier been blocked by regulators.

In Poland the environmental organisation Laboratory for All Beings attacked as “unnecessary” plans for a potential second floating, storage and regasification unit in Gdansk, in the Baltic Sea.

The existing project for Gdansk called for a single FSRU, with capacity to regassify 6.1 million tonnes per annum of LNG, to be operational by 2025.

Polish Climate Minister Climate Minister Anna Moskwa told the Biznesalert website that plans are already taking shape for a second unit, offering capacity to help Czech Republic and Slovakia obtain LNG and piped Norwegian gas to reduce their own reliance on Russian gas.

The Polish activists were challenging a narrative that suggests their nation can play a key role in averting a European energy crisis in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Poland was an early mover in building up alternative supply lines to Russia, spurred by Moscow's apparent willingness to use its position as the dominant supplier of natural gas to achieve geopolitical leverage in the continent.

Protests continue

These growing concerns over energy security have made campaigners against fossil fuels more, not less, determined to state their case.

The latest protests follow a wave of climate action around the continent in April and May, including demonstrations at Shell’s London headquarters and at the home of Lloyd’s of London.

Louise Harris, 24, one of the Just Stop Oil protesters in London, said: “[UK Energy Secretary] Kwasi Kwarteng has just approved the Jackdaw gas field, despite the UN’s latest warning that new fossil fuel investment is ‘moral and economic madness’.”

Last year, pressure from campaign groups including Extinction Rebellion (XR), Just Stop Oil and Greenpeace, among others, was credited with forcing Shell to rethink its support for the controversial Cambo oil and gas development offshore the UK.

German climate activists responded by turning off crude oil pipelines at several locations during a protest action staged in April, demanding the country look for other ways to reduce its dependence on Russian gas than starting new fossil fuel-based infrastructure projects.

But environmental worries have becoming increasingly overshadowed in the public consciousness by concerns about skyrocketing energy bills and, in the UK, the Jackdaw and Cambo projects now look closer to going ahead.

Soaring commodity prices have also meant investors are looking more favourably toward oil and gas developments than a few months ago.

For example, state-owned QatarEnergy's North Field East is expanding as part of the world's largest liquefied natural gas project, and the supermajors are piling in for stakes in this, especially those recently forced to withdraw from Russia.

Germany and the Netherlands have announced plans to develop a new North Sea gas field, Norwegian regulators have paved the way for additional exploration and production and the UK has unveiled a new licensing round.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz also has said Germany wants to pursue gas projects with Senegal.

UN critique

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned this week that new investments in fossil fuels were “delusional” given their impact on rising global temperatures, Reuters news agency reported.

“The energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine has seen a perilous doubling down on fossil fuels by the major economies,” Guterres said in a video address to the Austrian World Summit, a climate conference.

“Had we invested massively in renewable energy in the past, we should not be so dramatically at the mercy of the instability of fossil fuel markets now,” Guterres said.

Scientists say global carbon dioxide emissions need to be cut roughly in half by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency has called for an end to new oil, gas and coal projects in order to meet global climate goals, and says renewable energy investments must triple by 2030.

Pushback begins

But pressure is also building in the opposite direction since the imposition of sanctions squeezes most Russian oil out of Western markets.

In April, three energy companies operating in the UK secured injunctions to stop protests by activists.

Navigator Thames, ExxonMobil and Valero secured civil injunctions to allow them to minimise disruption and prevent further problems, the UK’s business department said.

“While we value the right to peaceful protest, it is crucial that these do not cause disruption to people’s everyday lives,” said UK Energy Minister Greg Hands at the time.

“That’s why I’m pleased to see oil companies taking action to secure injunctions at their sites, working with local police forces to arrest those who break the law and ensure deliveries of fuel can continue as normal.”

Earlier this week, a group of five former UK and Scottish energy ministers signed a joint letter calling on the UK and Scottish governments to demand “full support” to the North Sea oil and gas industry, prompting outcry from Greenpeace.

Ami McCarthy, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Are these guys joking? The government has been falling over itself to support oil and gas companies, granting them massive tax breaks and approving a destructive new gas field — meanwhile allowing fuel poverty to soar.

“If the government really cared about a thriving North Sea industry and long-term sustainable employment, and about tackling the cost of living or the climate crisis, they’d prioritise a just transition to renewable power, boosting our supply chains, upgrading the grid and bringing secure green jobs to Scotland and the north-east of England.”

Norway too

There has also been an increase in anti-oil in activism in Norway, where government policy aims to boost gas output in response to the shortfall in European supply caused by Russian sanctions.

Activists from the group Stop Oil Exploration staged road blocks in Trondheim city centre earlier this week.

With oil and gas prices soaring, governments around the world are more concerned about the social and political instability that might be unleashed by rising economic hardship, however.

Poland was one of several countries that has seen demonstrations about fuel prices in recent weeks.

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