A group of a dozen activists entered the entered Queen Elizabeth House, the new UK Government hub on Edinburgh’s Sibbald Walk, on Monday morning and are blocking the main entrance by sitting and lying down.
They are demanding that Boris Johnson puts a stop to the expected approval of the Cambo oil field in the North Sea.
A rally at the same government offices is due to take place later on Monday.
The Cambo oil field is 30 per cent owned by petroleum giant Shell and 70 per cent by private equity firm Siccar Point Energy.
It is estimated to contain more than 800 million barrels of oil.
In its first phase, the project expects to extract 150 to 170 million worth of barrels.
Campaigners from the group Stop Cambo Scotland say burning this amount of fossil fuels would create emissions equivalent to a year’s output from 16 to 18 coal-fired power stations.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), part of Westminster’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is set to decide in coming weeks whether to approve or reject the plans.
The application comes just months before the UK is due to host the COP26 United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, where countries from across the world are due to set out how they will cut greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming.
Mikaela Loach, a fourth-year medical student and climate activist, is one of those staging the protest.
She called the plans to drill for more fossil fuels “criminal”.
“Floods are ripping through Germany,” she said.
“Madagascans are starving and thirsty in a fierce drought.
“North Americans are dying in unprecedented deadly heatwaves and wildfires rage.
“And the Amazon is emitting more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.
“In all this chaos, the UK Government, host of the COP26 UN climate negotiations, is happy to sign away 800 million barrels of oil, just so a few shareholders can turn a profit.
“This is criminal. The Cambo oil field must be stopped.”
In May, the International Energy Agency said investments in new oil and gas projects and polluting coal power plants must be halted to help tackle the climate crisis.
Neil Rothnie, a former oil worker and founding member of Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, said: “I don’t believe that we can just keep on exploring for and producing all the planet’s oil and gas.
“My understanding of the science is that if we do that, climate change will destroy the planet as we know it and much of the life it supports.
“I have young grandchildren. That destruction could be well advanced in their grandchildren’s lifetime.
“That scares the sh*t out of me.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police are currently in attendance on Sibbald Walk, Edinburgh, and are engaging with a group of peaceful protesters gathered within the UK Government building.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We are working with the police to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Currently the vast majority of UK Government civil servants continue to work from home, as they have done throughout the pandemic. This means our services are unaffected by today’s activity.”