An eco-zealot who helped cripple the M25 worked for super polluter Rolls Royce just weeks before the protest, MailOnline can reveal.
Tom Gardener, 29, was a systems engineer working for the company which, by his own admission, accounted for 0.6% of global man-made carbon emissions in 2019.
He was based at their Raynesway factory in Derby, which builds nuclear reactors for Britain’s Royal Navy.
According to a former colleague, he quit his job – which offers an average salary of £44,461 – at the end of the summer.
“He had clarified his position on the importance of the environment and decided that he could no longer continue to do what he had been doing for several years,” a source said. “He had no problems at work. They were sorry to lose him.
Now, along with 57 others, he has been charged with causing a public nuisance after climbing an M25 gantry as part of the Just Stop Oil protests.
Tom Gardener, 29, worked as a systems engineer for Rolls Royce until late summer
He and 57 others have been charged with causing a public nuisance after climbing an M25 gantry as part of the Just Stop Oil protests
Mr Gardener, who lives with his girlfriend in Stapleford, Nottingham, appeared in Reading Magistrates’ Court last Friday.
He is from Hertfordshire and it is understood he moved to the Midlands after graduating from the University of Sheffield where he studied aerospace.
Just before his arrest, he told reporters he was part of the group Animal Rebellion which had teamed up with Just Stop Oil to highlight the climate crisis.
From the porch, he said: “We continue to see utter neglect and a lack of leadership by those who hold power in this country.
“Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman and the rest of government, people across the country are asking you to do the right thing and stop all new oil and gas licenses and invest in renewable energy and a future based on plants.”
On his Instagram, he describes himself as a “vegan, engineer, kayaker and ice hockey fan”.
Photos of him wearing a yellow helmet as he hung over the M25 stunned neighbors more than 150 miles away.
Police try to arrest an activist as they put up a banner reading ‘Just Stop Oil’ atop an electronic road sign along the M25
Just Stop Oil supporters climbed motorway gantries around the M25 as part of their campaign to demand the government suspend all new oil and gas licenses and permits
One said: “I don’t know him well but I knew he worked at Rolls Royce so I didn’t expect to see him stepping onto a gantry protesting an environmental disaster.”
Rolls Royce has pledged to achieve net zero in its operations by 2030 and net zero as a business by 2050.
They also aim to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 35% before the end of the decade.
Another local resident, academic Mohammed Ali, 37, defended his neighbour’s tactic and said: “I know Tom who to say hello to but not particularly well and I was unaware of his involvement.”
“I wouldn’t condemn him. Maybe we’ll look back in the future and say those people were right. It wouldn’t be the first time we did it.
“There have been so many discussions on this issue, promises and summits, but things are not changing fast enough.” Most people agree with this.
“The fact that we’re talking about it shows that people like my neighbor are helping.”
An activist hangs a banner reading ‘Just Stop Oil’ atop an electronic road sign along the M25
But another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said the former Rolls-Royce employee had shown a judgmental side to his personality during the Covid lockdown.
He said: ‘He got involved quite unnecessarily in scolding one of his neighbors for seeing his daughter visit him.
“What he didn’t know was that this lady had just had surgery and her daughter had been allowed to visit to change her dressings.
“He had just jumped to the wrong conclusion and written a fairly long note to talk her out of it. It was off-putting.
Mr Gardener did not respond when asked to comment.
A Rolls Royce spokesperson said: “Due to data protection regulations, we are unable to confirm whether a person by this name has worked for Rolls-Royce or not.”
. protester Stop Oil M25 worked for polluter RollsRoyce some weeks before