Monday, 15 December 2008

More "Popular Mobilisation"

*Coal Action Scotland media release*

For immediate use: 15/12/08

*Coal rail terminal shut down by local residents and Climate campaigners*

At 06:00am this morning thirty campaigners from Coal Action Scotland (1) together with local residents peacefully blockaded the entrance to the Scottish Coal-operated Ravenstruther coal rail terminal in South Lanarkshire (2). Having stopped its reopening after the weekend, this action is currently preventing the delivery of thousands of tonnes of coal to power stations across Scotland. Protestors intend to stay in place as long as possible.

Scotland's CO2 emissions are increasing significantly. Because of the burning of coal it will be impossible for Scotland to meet its 80% target reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 (3). Angus Mcloud said "The fact is that the government will not meet its own targets. This confirms what climate protestors have believed all along – that the Scottish government is paying lip service to the dangers of climate change."

This action is being taken to impact the operations of Scottish Coal and Scottish Power in the region, stopping coal being delivered from five local open cast mines (4). The protestors are acting to oppose the five open cast coal mines that deliver coal to the rail terminal and in resistance to the thirteen new open cast coal mines due to open in Scotland.

Protestors erected and scaled a 15ft scaffolding tripod, blocking trucks from entering the terminal. Others are locked by their necks to a conveyor belt and a bulldozer, preventing coal stockpiles from being loaded onto trains.

Tilly Gifford who is at the site said: "In the face of dangerous runaway climate change, increasing our dependence on coal – the most polluting of the fossil fuels – is simply unacceptable. We urgently need to make the transition to renewable energy and close existing mines. We shouldn't even be thinking about new ones."

Today's direct action builds on recent demonstrations that have taken place all over the UK in opposition to new coal (5).

The demonstration today is in support of communities opposing new open cast mines. Rebecca Mackenzie, a local resident said: "We're here today to send a clear message that we don't want parts of Scotland such as South Lanarkshire to become the most heavily mined areas in Europe, as they will be if permission is granted for all the new open cast coal mines currently being proposed. If sites such as Mainshill near Douglas can't be stopped through legal avenues, then action will have to be taken to make sure these last remaining areas of un-mined countryside aren't destroyed".

Beth Whelan, the campaigner perched on the scaffolding tripod, said: "Local authorities, the Scottish government and companies such as Scottish Coal and Scottish Power are ignoring the scientific evidence on climate change. We have to take responsibility for our climate and our future, and stop the coal industry and its expansion. This is what we doing today: acting responsibly".

It is estimated that 6,380 tonnes of coal were stopped from being transported from the coal mines to power stations, equivalent to 11,675,400 kg CO2 (11,675.4 tonnes) released into the atmosphere.

Coal Action Scotland apologizes to any workers affected by today's demonstration, but in recognizing the desperate need to stop burning coal sees no other choice but to target the companies responsible for mining it (6).



[1] Coal Action Scotland is part of the UK-wide Coal Action Network of individuals opposing the developments of a new generation of coal powered energy generation.

[2] The rail terminal is located off the A70 road. Trains leaving the terminal deliver coal to West Burton(EDF Energy), Drax (Drax Group plc.), Rugeley (International Power), Ironbridge (E.on), Cottam (EDF), Lynemouth (Alcan), the Scottish Power – operated Longannet power station.


[4] Poniel, Broken Cross, Glentaggart and Glenbuck

[5] Today's action builds on recent events such as the occupation of Lodge House at Shipley open cast in Derbyshire, the stopping of a coal train to Drax, the Camp for Climate Action at Kingsnorth in Kent and numerous other site occupations that have stopped work at open cast sites.

[6] Coal Action Scotland acknowledges that mining communities have a long history of neglect and deprivation. The dismantling of high-emission industries must occur through a process of just transition to ensure that these communities do not suffer additionally through redundancies. Lasting and significant change to these polluting industries can only come through campaigners and workers uniting to stop climate change and environmental degradation together.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The War On Error

One great thing about a blog is that when you get things wrong, it's easy to go back and correct them. So, for example, I was able to shove a few quick back-of-envelope calculations about activism-related carbon savings on my last post whilst it was still all topical and that, and then return later to refine them (I overestimated things a bit the first time round).

Some extra research has now thrown my "1,000 tonnes saved by the sneaky Kingsnorth shutdown" figure into doubt, because it seems that the extra inefficiency involved in starting up and shutting down other generators at a few hours notice might well cancel out those savings in the short term. To be honest though, the on-the-spot emissions reductions from this sort of action are only part of the picture. The surreptitious Kingsnorth switch-off also achieved at least four other vital things:

* Damage to E.ON's finances and reputation, making it even more difficult for them (and companies like them) to build new coal plants in the future;
* Yet more media coverage of the link between coal and climate change
* Inspiration and hope to millions of climate change campaigners
* Another illustration of how ridiculous the over-policing was at this year's Camp for Climate Action.

I think this last point is particularly interesting. One of the supposed reasons for the massive police presence was that if activists succeeded in shutting down Kingsnorth, it would jeopardise the UK's energy supply and threaten public safety.

We said this was complete rubbish at the time, and now everyone knows it's true: on November 28th, an activist shut down a quarter of Kingsnorth and the public (at the time) didn't even notice. The slack was taken up elsewhere on the grid, and everything went on as normal. The only damage was to E.ON's profits and reputation. Exactly the same thing would have happened if the Climate Campers had got into Kingsnorth in August.

So those thousands of police officers and 5.9 million pounds of taxpayer's money weren't protecting the public at all. They were protecting E.ON.

Worth bearing in mind, that.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

[Note: Calculations updated 11/12/08]

On the day that Environment Secretary Ed Miliband calls for a "popular mobilisation" on climate change...

...57 activists break into Stansted Airport and build a small fort on one of the taxi runways:

Local Councils initially refused to allow Stansted to expand but - in a fine example of democracy in action - this was overruled by the Government, who are now conducting another dodgy "public enquiry" that will shock no-one when it comes out in favour of a second runway. It now falls to brave activists like these to take action to stop the expansion of Stansted - which would produce an extra 7 million tonnes of CO2 per year, according to the British Airports Authority - and to make the wider point about aviation and climate change.

Stansted are now saying that 56 flights have been cancelled, all from Ryanair. Assuming that half of these were inbound flights (which will have been redirected to other airports), that's 28 flights that didn't happen. Let's do a rough calculation (I'll try to do a better one if I find some better data). The average Stansted flight generates 15.4 tonnes of CO2, according to the Aviation Environment Federation. To get the full climate change impact of burning jet fuel in the upper atmosphere, we need to multiply this by 1.3, meaning that today's protest directly prevented approximately 28 x 15.4 x 1.3 = 561 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. That's the same as the annual greenhouse gas emissions from about 93 UK homes (in terms of electricity and gas use).

That's clearly completely awesome in and of itself. But the protest has also been headline news on all the TV, radio and online news outlets all morning. These 57 people have not only saved more carbon in 5 hours than a typical local authority home insulation scheme would achieve in a year, they also got far more media coverage for climate issues than the thousands of people who marched through London on Saturday.

But of course, illegal direct action doesn't work and those 57 people would have achieved far more by writing stern letters to their MPs.

Meanwhile, news is also breaking that Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent was invaded by mystery intruders last Friday, who got into a control room and shut down one of the turbines for four hours. E.ON, the owners of Kingsnorth, haven't released any more details as yet but it's interesting to note that this took place during the Climate Camp's 48 hours of action against E.ON and new coal. Let's have some more fun with the numbers: according to the Times, 500 MW of generating capacity was lost for four hours. That's 2000 MWh of electricity. Coal-powered electricity generates about 1 tonne of CO2e per MWh, so that's a saving of 2,000 tonnes from shutting down a quarter of Kingsnorth for four hours. Of course, that capacity will have been replaced by firing up a back-up generator elsewhere on the National Grid, but even an inefficient oil generator will only have produced about 1,000 tonnes of CO2e, leaving a clear 1,000 tonne saving. That's the equivalent of 5,000 households switching to energy-saving light bulbs for a year. (Let me know if you want references for all these figures and I'll happily fish them out). Equally importantly, it's kept the spotlight on E.ON and their disgraceful coal expansion plans.

These are the kinds of peaceful direct actions that, as Ed Miliband notes, have been successful at creating social change in "all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s". If we want a meaningful deal at Copenhagen next year, we're going to need a lot more of this sort of thing, to urgently shove the whole political debate away from the current disastrous "growth at all costs" model and towards climate sanity. So presumably Mr Miliband will now declare his support for today's direct actions, and call for more of the same?

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Someone's Been Naughty This Year

E.ON's UK headquarters yesterday morning:

Check out the full, festive story of E.ON's seasonal surprise at Amelia's magazine.

Monday, 1 December 2008

My First Haiku

Yeah, I finally got tempted by the old 5-7-5 formula. Following a chat with a friend on Friday (hi Jo), I couldn't resist writing this:

One real live case of
Carbon capture and storage:
Somali pirates.