Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during the launch of her new book "The Climate Book" at the The Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival
The protest itself saw dozens of activists obstructing Hamilton Place, where the InterContinental on Park Lane hosted the EIF. Reuters

On Tuesday morning in London, climate activist Greta Thunberg was arrested while participating in a protest targeting the Energy Intelligence Forum (EIF), a gathering dubbed the 'Oscars of oil'. The event, previously known as the Oil & Money Conference, has faced severe criticism for its association with the fossil fuel industry.

Thunberg, along with hundreds of protesters, converged on the InterContinental Hotel on Park Lane, the venue for the EIF, which brings together executives from the fossil fuel sector and government ministers.

Video footage captured the moment when Thunberg was apprehended and taken into police custody after participating in demonstrations that obstructed the entrances to the hotel.

Addressing the press before joining the protest, Thunberg stated: "Behind these closed doors at the oil and money conference, spineless politicians are making deals and compromises with lobbyists from destructive industries, the fossil fuel industry."

She stressed the consequences of these industry-related decisions, asserting that "people all over the world are suffering and dying from the consequences of the climate crisis caused by these industries who we allow to meet with our politicians and have privileged access to".

Thunberg condemned the conference's elite attendees, stating that their intentions are to continue profiting from the destructive pursuit of oil, and she urged direct action to challenge their influence over politics.

She emphasised: "That is why we have to take direct action to stop this and to kick oil money out of politics. We have no other option but to put our bodies outside this conference and to physically disrupt [it]."

Protesters rallied outside the hotel, blocking Hamilton Place from both ends with banners and pink umbrellas adorned with painted eyes. They chanted slogans such as "oily money out" and "cancel the conference" while also lighting yellow and pink smoke flares.

Police fenced off the hotel and escorted conference delegates through the crowd of activists. Delegates received a text message from EIF organisers warning them not to attempt entry into the hotel without police assistance, emphasising their safety.

According to a statement from the Metropolitan Police posted on social media, officers had intervened to enable safe access for members of the public in and out of the venue. A total of six people were arrested for obstructing the highway, with an additional 14 arrested for violating the protest conditions imposed under section 14 of the Public Order Act.

The EIF had an agenda that featured chief executives from major oil companies such as Aramco, Repsol, Shell, TotalEnergies and the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. Topics included discussions on renewable power, the feasibility of net-zero emissions and strategies for navigating climate issues while maintaining shareholder returns. The event was set to culminate in an award ceremony honouring the "energy executive of the year" and the "energy leaders for tomorrow".

Fossil Free London, a climate advocacy group, organised the protests. Robin Wells, the group's director, criticised the conference as a platform for powerful interests to influence politicians, including elected representatives. She argued that these gatherings enable the oil industry to continue its influence on political processes and undermine climate efforts.

Wells mentioned that Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and president of Cop28, scheduled for November, was originally set to speak at the conference. However, Al Jaber was notably absent from the most recent roster of speakers.

Simultaneously, as the protest was unfolding, Greenpeace activists made a dramatic entrance. They appeared on a hotel balcony, equipped with climbing gear, and began abseiling down the building's façade while unfurling a banner reading 'Make Big Oil Pay'.

Unfortunately, strong winds interfered with their efforts to secure the bottom of the banner, causing the activists to struggle to maintain control over the ropes as gusts swept them across the building. Subsequently, their mission was halted, and the banner was pulled back to the top of the hotel.

As of now, the event's organiser, Energy Intelligence, has not issued a comment regarding the protest or Thunberg's arrest. The demonstrations highlight the growing global concern and activism surrounding climate change and the role of the fossil fuel industry in exacerbating environmental challenges.