Climate activists target Magna Carta in British Library protest

Two climate protesters have broken the glass around the Magna Carta as they called for the UK government to commit to emergency plans.

The Just Stop Oil activists were pictured hammering the protective glass around the 13th century document in the British Library on Friday morning.

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 then glued themselves to the cabinet.

The pair held signs which read “The government is breaking the law”, and could be heard saying: “Is the government above the law?”

The ‘Great Charter’ is an essential foundation for the contemporary powers of Parliament.

The Just Stop Oil activists were pictured hammering the protective glass around the 13th century document (Just Stop Oil)
The Just Stop Oil activists were pictured hammering the protective glass around the 13th century document (Just Stop Oil)

Ms 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 Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “At 10.52 police were called to the British Library to reports of Just Stop Oil activists trying to damage the Magna Carta.

“Officers arrested two people on suspicion of criminal damage, both of which are currently in custody. The damage caused was to the protective case and not the exhibit itself.”

The group say are demanding the UK government commit to an emergency plan to end the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030.

Just Stop Oil said the action on Friday coincided with the government’s climate policy being been ruled unlawful for the second time by the UK high court this week.

 (Just Stop Oil)
(Just Stop Oil)

The ruling was made as there is not enough evidence that there are sufficient policies in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy secretary Claire Coutinho will now have to draw up a revised plan within 12 months to ensure that the UK achieves its legally binding carbon budgets and its pledge to cut emissions by more than two-thirds by 2030.

The climate campaigners also added that they took action after the North Sea Transition Authority announced the offer of 31 new oil and gas licences under the 33rd oil and gas licensing round.

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.”

Earlier this week, a poll of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists revealed 77 per cent believed global tempertures will reach 2.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Additionally, 43 per cent believe 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.

Protester Ms 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.”