On October 22 people from across the country gathered at Drax power station to protest against its continual use of coal to produce electricity and its unsustainable burning of wood. Drax was the site of the world’s first climate camp ten years ago, and we wanted to commemorate its impact on local and global climate activism in the intervening decade. Drax remains the UK’s largest coal burner but in the time since the first climate camp it has also become the world’s largest user of biomass, so it is as fitting a place as ever for a protest against all that is wrong with government policy in relation to climate change.
Speakers on the day explained the issues with coal – sourced for Drax from Colombia, Russia and UK opencasts causing cultural genocide and large scale ecosystem destruction and the issues with large scale biomass. Drax burns more wood in a year than is produced in the whole of the UK requiring wood pellets, made from whole trees to be imported from southern USA states where biodiverse forests are felled for Drax.
At the demo there were a range of speakers and performers, reflecting on the ongoing problem of Drax and its subsidies as well as the array of climate problems we are currently facing and the variety of activist activities that occur in response. Scarlet from the Coal Action Network delivered her extremely powerful performance about coal-affected areas of Colombia in front of Drax’s cooling towers. As well as talking about Drax’s use of coal and biomass, there were speakers on a variety of other extreme energy related topics that affect us today, such as fracking in Yorkshire and the renewed threat of more nuclear power in the UK. There was a greenwash brigade who kept everybody active with some chanting. Veggies provided food and tea which kept morale up.
Local councillor Andy Hines talked about the problems of having Drax as a neighbour, and others talked about having participated in the 2006 Climate Camp before going on to organise more audacious climate actions. Airport Watch contributed with a explained the urgent climate crisis which awaits if we expand further airports. A new runway at Heathrow would mean the airport would overtake Drax as the the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gas in the UK.
There was a greenwash brigade who kept everybody active with some chanting. Veggies provided food and tea which kept morale up.
Sophie from the Beehive Collective talked about the collective’s amazing ‘True Cost of Coal‘ banner, which tells the story of forest destruction, mountaintop removal mining, coal workers’ struggles, false solutions and community efforts towards creating a more sustainable future.
Without the climate movement around 6 new coal fired power stations would have been built in the last ten years. We would have fracked gas in our energy supply and Hinkley nuclear power station would probably be closer to having been built. Without concerted efforts on aviation Heathrow airport would already have a new runway which would be producing more carbon than the whole of Kenya, thanks to the last labour government.
A few days earlier there had been a protest at Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy organised by Biofuelwatch protesting against the government’s £1.6million a day subsidies to Drax power station. For a write up see here.
People travelled from as far away as London and Edinburgh, but also from the local villages, cities and from across Yorkshire to remind Drax that we will not go away until the power station is shut down and replaced by something genuinely sustainable.