View from the coal face

Posted by Fran G — 23 September 2014 at 3:18pm - Comments
Greenpeace activist on top of a coal train with power station in the background
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
Activist on the coal train

I can see the giant towers of the Cottam coal power plant looming on the horizon from my perch on top of a heap of coal, in the carriage of a coal supply train.This afternoon, with 49 friends - and with great care - I helped stop a train carrying coal to Cottam power station. Now we're occupying the train so it can't deliver its cargo. By doing this we're sending a message to the political leaders taking part in the UN climate summit today: end the age of coal.

Stopping a coal train may seem drastic. It's not a decision I've taken lightly. But I strongly believe that if we are going to stop rampant climate change, drastic actions are needed.

Where these actions are needed most is in the cabinets and boardrooms of world leaders. Right now, they’re meeting in New York to talk - including David Cameron.

Coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels available and it's not only terrible for the climate, it's also a major air polluter. The UK's ancient coal stations cause an estimated 1,600 premature deaths every year and cost the taxpayer up to £3 billion in health impacts.

But there are alternatives. The abundance of renewable energy sources and technologies available mean that we no longer have to dig the last of the fossil fuels out of the ground. And new EU laws will soon force the UK's ageing coal plants to either spend millions upgrading the plants or else close them down completely. So, what we need right now from our leaders is a strong commitment to end the age of coal and instead invest in clean, green, renewable energy. It really is a no brainer.

While they’re talking in New York, there’s a plan to give energy companies in the UK millions of pounds of tax-payers money to keep old coal power plants burning.

The first thing David Cameron should do when he gets back from New York is to scrap the plan to give taxpayers money to energy companies to keep coal burning.  And Ed Miliband too needs to set out his plan to get us off coal.

Just last month, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Arctic on board the Greenpeace Esperanza. It was a life changing experience to travel to the top of the world to see first hand the beautiful and diverse environment there.

The Arctic is one of the last untouched places on our planet, yet the effects of climate change are already shockingly apparent. Sailing past Bear Island – named after the ubiquity of polar bears nearby – we joked that someone should really rename it to No Bears Island or Climate Change Island. Bears haven't been spotted there for years because the retreating sea ice no longer reaches that far south.

It's heart-breaking that places like the Arctic are not only disappearing before our very eyes due to climate change, but that this is also seen as a business opportunity by the ever-greedy energy industry, which wants to exploit these changes by burning even more fossil fuels. They want to drill for oil in the melting Arctic, frack underneath our homes and burn coal they've imported from Russia and beyond. When is enough enough?

Today’s climate summit is important. Scientists, economists, political leaders and environmentalists have warned on countless occasions that we need to act now if we're to have a chance of halting devastating climate change.

I'm doing my bit to try and do that by stopping this shipment. But our political leaders need to know that hundreds of thousands of us want stronger action. Tell them to end the age of dirty coal now

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