Climate protesters plan campaign of direct action against UK polluters

Martin Hickman
Sunday 03 February 2008 01:00 GMT

Climate change protesters have made plans for a nationwide campaign of direct action against greenhouse gas polluters across the UK. They warn that the campaign is set to become "more urgent" in the face of mounting evidence of growing environmental damage.

Hundreds of campaigners grabbed media headlines last summer when they set up a protest camp outside Heathrow and blocked the headquarters of airport operators BAA. Other demonstrators barred the entrances of the Department for Transport, alongside other high-profile stunts.

Now they say they will target Heathrow again but escalate the campaign by striking at other targets across the country. These targets are believed to include the Kingsnorth power station in Kent, where the German power giant E.ON is planningto build the first new coal-fired power station in the UK for more than 20 years.

A second strike is being threatened against the £40m refining plant run by Greenergy, the UK's biggest biofuels producer, at Immingham on the Humber estuary.

"We are at crisis point. This is a movement that has been building massively since our first climate camp two years ago," said Camp for Climate Action spokeswoman Alex Harvey.

"We feel that there's a need to ratchet the pressure up. We have featured individual sectors in the past but this year we are joining the dots in the fight against the fossil fuel economy," she added.

Instead of holding a single camp, the protesters, who planned their strategy in Leeds last weekend, intend to visit the targets in a "convoy". As they are against the use of fossil or biofuels, they are likely to travel by bicycle, foot or horseback, turning the convoy into a modern-day version of the Jarrow March against unemployment in 1936.

The move is deliberately designed to cause an even greater headache to the authorities. Last year, BAA sought a High Court injunction that could have banned five million members of groups such as the National Trust and the RSPB from Heathrow, while the Metropolitan Police spent £70m on policing.

Environmentalists regard BAA's planned third runway at Heathrow as a test of the Government's willingness to tackle climate change. The runway would raise Heathrow's annual flights from 480,000 to 702,000, increasing noise over west London and CO2 emissions. A Government consultation ends this month, but ministers are thought to back expansion. A decision is expected in the summer.

John Stewart, chairman of AirportWatch, who has contacts in the Camp for Climate Action, said: "There are people talking about pretty spectacular direct action if the go-ahead is given."

They are determined to thrust climate change to the top of the news agenda and believe even more protesters will turn out than the estimated 2,000 who camped at Heathrow. The protests are scheduled to take place between 23 July and 5 August.

The planned coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth – which is opposed by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – could become another focus of opposition by the environment movement. E.ON argues that the replacement of the existing coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth will cut CO2 by 20 per cent.

The protesters warn the power station is the "gatekeeper" for a series of seven coal-fired power stations that would emit 56 million tonnes of CO2 annually – more than the individual emissions of 100 countries.

The Camp for Climate Action says the answer to the decline of oil is not to plant biofuels on land needed for food production but to use less energy. Andrew Owens, chief executive of Greenergy told the IoS he backed the campaigners' fight against climate change, except in relation to biofuels.

The protesters fear the authorities will seek to stifle their protests, risking a summer of confrontation. "I don't think we're being paranoid when we work on the basis that people are listening to our phones," said Leo Murray, a spokesman for Plane Stupid.

Paul Morozzo, an anarchist involved in anti-capitalist protests in the 1990s, said last year: "There is a sustained attempt to undermine and crush progressive environmental movements in the country, through intimidation and surveillance, through using terrorism laws to hold and threaten people, and through increasing use of civil injunctions to limit people's ability to move around."

Green flashpoints


Consultation on Heathrow's third runway ends this month, but ministers are thought to back expansion. Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport, is expected to announce a decision in the summer. If approved, flights will increase from 480,000 to more than 700,000 a year. John Stewart, chairman of AirportWatch and the Heathrow anti-noise group, HACAN, said the climate camp had galvanised opposition to expansion.


The planned coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, opposed by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, is set to become another environmental cause célèbre. E.ON says the station will cut C02 by 20 per cent. Protesters warn that it is the first of seven coal-fired power stations that would emit 56 million tonnes of C02 annually for 40 years.


Protesters say the answer to the decline of oil and gas is not to search for new fuels but to use less. Andrew Owens, chief executive of Greenergy, which runs the Immingham plant, said he's pleased campaigners are highlighting climate change, but disagrees that land use for biofuels is a problem and calls for more efficient agriculture.

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