People vs coal

Posted by Lawrence Carter — 23 September 2014 at 2:39pm - Comments
Activist with a bag of coal from the train, with address label to Vladimir Putin
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
Coal ready to be returned to sender

BREAKING: More than 50 people have stopped a train carrying coal to Cottam power station and are now unloading its climate-wrecking cargo. The train, transporting around 1,500 tonnes of coal to be burned in the power station’s furnaces, was flagged down safely this afternoon as it approached the power station.

It is now being blockaded from completing its journey, while teams of Greenpeace volunteers unload the cargo into sacks to be returned to Russia, the source of 51% of the UK’s coal. And  campaigners have also led a life-sized, moving polar bear puppet to the front of the train, where it is now nose-to-nose with the locomotive. The iconic animal symbolises the six-million-strong global movement to save the Arctic and our planet from the ravages of climate change.

The action takes place as David Cameron prepares to lay out Britain’s plans to rein in carbon emissions at a UN-convened climate summit in New York. At the same time, opposition leader Ed Miliband is expected to use today’s speech at the Labour conference to set out his party’s position on energy and climate change. Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband promised voters they would put an end to dirty coal, yet the UK is burning huge amounts of unnecessary coal just because it’s more profitable for the energy companies than cleaner fuels. We are calling on both leaders to make good on their pledges and set out clear plans to retire old coal plants within the next decade.

Cottam power station, owned by French energy giant EDF, is among the top twenty most polluting power stations in Europe. Together with EDF’s other coal power station in the area, West Burton, it pumps out 20 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year  more than Sri Lanka, a country of 21 million people.

The government’s independent climate change advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, have said that in order to meet our legally binding climate change commitments “there can be no role for conventional coal generation in the UK beyond the early 2020s.”And this month’s high-profile report by the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate, which was jointly commissioned by the UK government, argues that affluent counties should: “accelerate early retirement of existing unabated [coal] capacity”.

Despite these warnings, the UK’s dependence on coal increased by 19% over the last three years, displacing lower carbon forms of energy. In 2012 UK coal power stations emitted more CO2 than the entire economies of Norway and Sweden combined. And by 2013 coal was once again Britain’s primary source of electricity generation. Health experts have estimated that emissions from UK coal plants are responsible for 1,600 premature deaths and cost the UK up to £3.1 billion every year.

What’s worse, the government is now doing everything it can to throw a lifeline to our aging power stations - voting against proposals to cap emissions; working with industry to water down crucial air pollution protections; freezing a tax on carbon it had only just introduced; and offering new multi-million-pound subsidies just to stay open.

People from all over the UK and from all walks of life have put their liberty on the line today for what they believe in. They haven’t done so lightly, but the threat posed to our climate and our health by keeping the UK’s coal fleet running for decades to come is just too serious to ignore. Please support their bravery by telling our political leaders to seize upon the historic opportunity to quit dirty coal for good.

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