A group of young Just Stop Oil activists has damaged pumps and blocked two petrol forecourts on the M25.
The group of 15 activists, all but one under the age of 24, said they had come to the BP petrol station at Clacket Lane services on the Kent-Surrey border because they were the last generation able to act to save the planet.
A forecourt was also blocked by Just Stop Oil at Cobham Services on the M25.
Just Stop Oil later said eight supporters were also potentially breaking a court ban during protests around an oil terminal in Warwickshire by standing peacefully with placards outside the site. It is the third day in a row of actions by the group since its campaign restarted on 25 April.
Around 7am as commuters hit the motorway, several activists stuck themselves with superglue to the concrete at the entrance and exits of the forecourt, whilst others sprayed orange paint over the pump meters and the names of the different types of fuel.
They cracked the plastic covering that protects the meters counting how much fuel consumers have used with small hammers, before glueing themselves to the pumps stopping anyone from being able to fill up their cars.
As the high-vis-clad youngsters arrived at the petrol station, those in the shop quickly locked the doors. Those cars already in the forecourt quickly left, and over the next hour dozens of drivers including big lorries indicated to enter the petrol station before realising the way was blocked.
Some then smiled, while others were less pleased. One irate customer accused the activists of being lazy.
“Get a job,” he shouted. Another cried “idiots” out of his window.
But the youngsters who got up before dawn Thursday say protesting is the most important thing they can do right now - even it means putting their liberty and future career prospects on the line. The activists allowed customers and cars to leave the petrol station without issue.
Within minutes, half a dozen police cars had arrived on the scene and were engaging with the protesters. The activists were told they had until 8am to protest and then may be liable for arrest. The protesters have said they have no intention of moving, and 8am soon came and went.
The interaction between the police and protesters was friendly, with some of the activists explaining why they felt compelled to be there.
Hannah Hunt, a 23-year-old student at Sussex University, said her generation had done little to contribute to the situation the planet finds itself in.
“This is our way of voicing how we feel, and what the young people here have in common is that we’re utterly terrified,” she said. “We suffer from eco-anxiety and terror about our futures, many of us want to have kids one day and to be able to have a stable future.”
Ms Hunt said that the aim of the action was to convince the government to stop the new licencising and production of fossil fules.
“We’re the last generation able to do something,” she said. “It’s our duty to act.”
Earlier this month, the government announced its energy security strategy in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the strategy, it announced a new round of licensing for oil and gas projects in the North Sea, saying domestic production of fossil fuels would be crucial to the country’s energy security and as a transition to renewable energy.
Boris Johnson has insisted that drilling for more North Sea oil and gas will not undermine the fight against the climate emergency.
Nathan McGovern, a student from Coventry who recently made headlines for taking to the pitch at a major Premier League game and attempting to glue himself to the goal posts, said he recognised that waking up before dawn to glue yourself to a petrol pump was not a normal thing to do.
“But the normal I suppose that we’re living in has to change, the system of fossil fuel greed has to change,” he said. “Already the world’s most vulnerable people are dying becuase of it,” he said, pointing the heatwave currently sweeping large swaths of India and Pakistan.
Climate scienists have said heatwaves are increasing in intensity and frequency in India and across the world due to the rise in global heating, mainly caused by emissions from fossil fuels. Over the past decade heat in India has killed hundreds every year.
“Me waking up at the crack of dawn to take action and raise the alarm and calling out the British government on their empty promises and lack of action is nothing really compared to that,” he added.
Mr McGovern said he hoped today’s protest would “stoke the fires” of civil resistance.
Asked about the criticism that had been levelled against Just Stop Oil for disrupting members of the public, both Mr McGovern and Ms Hunt said they did not relish disrupting people’s daily lives.
“It’s the last thing we want to do really, if we could achieve the level of publicity, the level of awareness and level of attention without doing this disruption, we definitely would do,” said Mr McGovern, explaining that they had tried petitions and other means of protest and nothing had happened.
He pointed to Angus Rose, a climate activist not linked to Just Stop Oil, who was recently on hunger strike for over a month outside Westminster demanding that the government brief MPs and members of the cabinet on the latest climate science.
“It took 37 of hunger strike to achieve that,” said Mr McGovern. “And the changes that need to happen very quickly are magnitudes bigger than that.”
Mr McGovern said the protesters would happily just gone home if they found out that the government had committed to halting new fossil fuel licensing and production.
“No one of us want to be doing this,” he said. “We’re young people, we’ve all got futures lives we want to be working towards ... but we’ve put in a situation where we don’t really have any other choice.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently told The Independent that the government is gradually driving down demand from fossil fuels but the country cannot have a cliff edge by turning off our domestic sources overnight.
“This would put our energy security, British jobs and industries at risk and simply increase foreign imports, not reduce demand,” the spokesman said.
Surrey police said they were dealing with two groups of protesters who turned up early Thursday morning at Clacket Lane and Cobham Services.
Officers were called around 7 am following reports that a group of protesters were gluing themselves to pumps and signs on the petrol station forecourts at Clacket Lane.
Shortly afterwards, a further call was received reporting that protesters were on site at Cobham Services petrol station and were damaging the pumps. One of the protesters had also glued himself to the top of lorry, the police said.
The pumps have all been switched off and motorists are being diverted away from both service stations.
The Independent has contacted BP and the Department for Business for comment.