20 Climate Change Activists Shut Down UK's Gas-Fired Power Plant
This morning, more than 20 climate change activists evaded security to shut down the UK’s newest gas-fired power station. They climbed two smokestacks at EDF Energy’s West Burton plant in Nottinghamshire, England, and have abseiled down the insides of the chimneys. They are now setting up camp in tents suspended from ropes inside the flues. As long as they hold their position above the furnaces the plant is unable to operate.
The occupation fires the starting gun on a huge nationwide battle over Britain’s energy future, with activists determined to stop government plans for a new dash for gas. They are calling instead for a high-tech carbon-free electricity system.
The night-time incursion was launched at 2 a.m. when the raiders got through the security fence. Under cover of darkness fifteen of them crossed the expanse to the chimneys then split into two groups and began the 300' climb to the top. They are now building barricades to defend their positions. They have enough supplies with them to last at least a week and say they’re in it for the long haul.
The plant was shut down shortly after the campaigners began the ascent. A further team remained on the ground to liaise with the plant’s managers. Before launching the protest they engaged in extensive consultation with an expert engineer and each underwent intensive safety training.
West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire is being targeted because it’s one of the first in a new generation of highly polluting gas plants planned for the UK. The Coalition Government recently announced it intends to give the green light to as many as 20 new gas plants—a move that would crash Britain’s carbon targets, contribute to the climate crisis and push up bills.
Anneka Kelly is one of the activists occupying the chimney. Speaking on a mobile phone she said:
Energy bills are going through the roof, people are getting flooded out of their homes, we’re seeing droughts across the world but the energy companies are making a killing. We’re here because we want an electricity system that doesn’t cause our world to warm and our bills to rise ever higher. Gas is expensive and highly polluting, but if the Government gets its way we’ll be reliant on it for decades. Instead we should be investing in clean high-tech renewables that slash pollution and in the long run will cost a lot less.
Contrary to claims by ministers and the industry, gas is a dirty fuel that poses an unacceptable threat to the environment. It’s also expensive—official figures from Ofgem show that the average UK energy bill rose £150 last year, with £100 of that due to rising wholesale gas prices. Only last week EDF raised their prices, following most of the other major companies and plunging even more people into fuel poverty. Meanwhile high-tech renewable systems are rapidly coming down in price, meaning that soon they will be cheaper, while communities across the country are turning their back on the Big Six energy companies in favour of cooperative community energy schemes.
Ewa Jasiewicz is on top of one of the chimneys. She said:
A new dash for gas will leave the UK utterly reliant on this dirty expensive fuel for decades to come. Our energy system is being run by a cartel of corporations that has this government in its pocket. As long as we have an economic system driven by profit, we will have an energy system that ignores the needs of those suffering most from climate change and rising energy bills. With a quarter of the UK’s outdated energy infrastructure needing to be replaced, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in renewables that could generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, radically cut emissions of carbon dioxide and stabilise energy bills. Clean green technology is already powering thousands of homes across the UK, and enjoys overwhelming public support.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
Facts about the West Burton Facility:
• West Burton gas power station is a 1,300MW Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plant, currently under construction in Nottinghamshire.
• It is comprised of three turbine houses and chimneys, labelled Units 1, 2 and 3. Unit 2 is complete and is operating at almost full capacity. Units 1 and 3 are further behind, with Unit 1 closer to completion than 3.
• When complete, the new CCGT plant will emit approximately 4.5 million tonnes CO2 per year when operating at full capacity. This is more than the annual emissions of Paraguay.[i]
• The Government's independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, have called for our electricity system to be almost entirely carbon free by 2030.[ii] They have defined this as meaning that our electricity system should produce no more than 50g of CO2 for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated, by 2030.
• The Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, John Gummer, recently wrote to the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, to warn that George Osborne's plans for a new generation of gas power could be illegal: “extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity… in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets.”[iii]
• Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, has called for 20GW of gas power stations to be built by 2030, approximately 20 new power stations.[iv]
• He has also guaranteed that gas power stations that already have planning consent can, if built, continue emitting CO2 unabated until 2045, i.e. their full life-span, by exempting them from emissions regulations.[v] There is currently 13GW of gas that has either recently been completed, is in construction, or has been granted planning consent.[vi]
• Lord Turner, in his former role as Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, wrote to the Energy Secretary to warn this would lead to “the risk that there will be too much gas-fired generation instead of low carbon investment” and that the policy could take emissions "beyond the limits implied by carbon budgets."[vii]
• Figures from Ofgem show that in 2011 the average UK energy bill rose by £150, with £100 of this due to the rising cost of gas.[viii]
• Last week, EDF hiked their energy prices by 10.8%, the highest of any of the big six energy companies so far this winter.
• Recent polling by YouGov found that 55% of people want more windfarms, compared to just 17% who want more gas power stations.[ix]
• An ICM poll found that more than two-thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine than a shale gas well near their home.[x]
• The Offshore Wind Valuation Group found that harnessing just 29% of the practical offshore renewable resource by 2050 would generate the electricity equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil annually, matching North Sea oil and gas production and making Britain a net electricity exporter.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.