After four days of peaceful demonstrations, climate activists gathered in Parliament Square as a deadline for the government to act to end all new fossil fuel projects was reached.
The actions involved a wide range of groups, including Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, as well as the Christian climate coalition, with thousands gathering for Earth Day in London on Saturday.
The former archbishop John Sentamu was refused access to the Shell headquarters in London as he tried to deliver a letter to its chief executive, Wael Sawan. Police were present as he tried to hand over his message.
Lord Sentamu said it was the most arrogant experience he had ever had. “Climate change is the greatest insidious and brutal indiscriminate force of our time. The people suffering the most have done the least to cause it,” he said in a message in support of the climate protests taking place over the weekend.
“That is why continuing to search for new sources of fossil fuels, despite explicit warnings against this from the International Energy Agency, is such an offence against humanity.”
The series of actions culminated on Monday with people gathering outside parliament as a deadline for the government to meet the climate demands approached.
XR was demanding that by 5pm ministers agree to stop new fossil fuel projects – including halting the more than 100 new oil exploration licences being offered to companies – the first set of licences offered since 2019-20.
They also want to see the setting up of emergency climate assemblies as part of a citizen-led democracy to put an end to the fossil fuel generation.
After the deadline passed, the XR co-founder Clare Farrell vowed the organisations involved would step up their campaigning.
“The government had a week to respond to our demands and they have failed to do so,” she said. “Next we will reach out to supporter organisations to start creating a plan for stepping up our campaigns across an ecosystem of tactics that includes everyone from first-time protesters to those willing to go to prison.”
An XR spokesperson said more than 200 organisations were involved in the coalition and the support would only grow. “We have to unite to survive like never before as this government pursues increasingly repressive tactics.”
The naturalist and TV host Chris Packham addressed the crowds over the weekend to make a rallying call for every last person who cares about the planet to join the community of activists.
He spoke just hours after two men who scaled a bridge on Dartford Crossing as part of the Just Stop oil actions were jailed for three years and two years seven months in a sentence condemned by XR as a “slap in the face” to everyone in the UK and globally who was being affected by climate change.
Judge Collery KC, who handed down the sentence, said it was designed to deter copycat actions.
Morgan Trowland, 40, and Marcus Decker, 34, were convicted of public nuisance for scaling the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which links the M25 between Essex and Kent across the River Thames, in October.
Ministers had not responded to the XR demands by Monday afternoon, as demonstrators prepared to encircle parliament.