“Is the government above the law?”- elders break glass around the Magna Carta

Two Just Stop Oil supporters have broken the glass around the Magna Carta. They are demanding the UK government commit to an emergency plan to end the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030. [1]

At around 10:40am, Reverend Dr Sue Parfitt, 82, an active Anglican priest, author, and retired psychotherapist from Bristol, and Judy Bruce, 85, a retired biology teacher from Swansea, entered the British Library and smashed the glass enclosure that surrounds the Magna Carta- the ‘Great Charter’ that is an essential foundation for the contemporary powers of Parliament.

The pair then glued themselves to the enclosure holding a sign which read ‘The government is breaking the law’, and could be heard saying: “Is the government above the law?”

“The government has been found guilty of breaking its own climate laws! What do we value more? The lives of our children? Or new oil licences? It’s time to choose!”

Judy Bruce said:

“This week 400 respected scientists- contributors to IPCC reports, are saying we are ‘woefully unprepared’ for what’s coming: 2.5 or more degrees of heating above pre industrial levels.” 

“Instead of acting, our dysfunctional government is like the three monkeys: ‘see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing- pretend we’ve got 25 years’.. We haven’t! We must get off our addiction to oil and gas by 2030 – starting now.” 

Reverend Dr Sue Parfitt said:

“The Magna Carta is rightly revered, being of great importance to our history, to our freedoms and to our laws. But there will be no freedom, no lawfulness, no rights, if we allow climate breakdown to become the catastrophe that is now threatened.”

“We must get things in proportion. The abundance of life on earth, the climate stability that allows civilisation to continue is what must be revered and protected above all else, even above our most precious artefacts.”

A Just Stop Oil Spokesperson said: 

Clause 39 of the Magna Carta is one of four clauses still enshrined in UK common law, a so-called ‘golden passage’, that states: ‘No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or in any other way ruined, except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.”

“Contrast that with civil law as it stands in 2024, where corporations are buying private laws in the form of injunctions that circumvent the people’s rights to a trial by jury for speaking out against the crimes of oil companies.”

Today’s action comes the same week the government’s climate policy has been ruled unlawful for the second time by the UK high court. The court found there is not enough evidence that there are sufficient policies in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet its legally binding carbon budgets and its pledge to cut emissions by more than two-thirds by 2030, both of which the government is off track to meet. [2]

Also this week, the North Sea Transition Authority, has just announced the offer of 31 new oil and gas licences under the 33rd oil and gas licensing round. [3]

Meanwhile, a poll of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists have expressed their ‘despair’ at the current trajectory, with 77% of respondents believing global temperatures will reach at least 2.5C above pre-industrial levels- a devastating degree of heating. Almost half (42%) think it will be more than 3C. “It is the biggest threat humanity has faced, with the potential to wreck our social fabric and way of life. It has the potential to kill millions, if not billions, through starvation, war over resources and displacement,” said James Renwick, at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. “None of us will be unaffected by the devastation.” 

When asked what individual action would be effective, Stephen Humphreys at the London School of Economics said: “Civil disobedience.” [4] [5]

Democracy has been hijacked by corporations that are destroying our communities for profit. Until leaders act to protect us, Just Stop Oil supporters will continue to take the proportional action necessary to generate political pressure. This summer airports will be declared sites of civil resistance. Sign up to take action at juststopoil.org.


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Notes to Editors

[1] Just Stop Oil is a coalition of groups working together to demand that the government immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK. Just Stop Oil is a member of the A22 Network of civil resistance projects.

Just Stop Oil ‘Blue Lights’ policy: our policy is, and has always been, to move out of the way for emergency vehicles with siren sounding and ‘blue lights’ on.

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/article/2024/may/03/britain-climate-action-plan-unlawful-high-court?share=jetpack-whatsapp

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/article/2024/may/08/world-scientists-climate-failure-survey-global-temperature?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other