Stop Kingsnorth: no to new coal power

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28 February 2008

Great expectations of stopping Kingsnorth

Medway is Dickens territory. Twice a year we have a Dickens Festival which attracts coachloads from all over the South of England and from the continent. Dickens used his novels to highlight abuses of power and the suffering of the poor with such passion and success that government decisions were affected. He showed the lives of the poor, hidden to most of his readers in real life, with great compassion and empathy.

The proposed replacement coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth is perhaps something he would write about today (though I suspect that he'd write scripts for Eastenders rather than novels). It is an abuse of power: we do not have to take the easy route of replacing like with like, but Medway Council has given planning permission (whilst calling for a Public
Enquiry) on the grounds that it will bring jobs to the area. This may be true but must be balanced against the effect on the air quality in Medway (and therefore the health of its residents).

Kingsnorth also impacts upon the lives of those poor people hidden from us in our daily lives. If Kingsnorth is allowed, it sets a precedent for similar replacements. This will increase the UK's CO2 emissions at a time when the Climate Change Bill promises to reduce them by 60% (and hopefully 80%). It will harm the environment, and we know that the people who suffer disproportionately from Climate Change are the poorest people on earth.

As this is Lent I am trying to implement some of the ideas in TEARfund's Carbon Fast. One of them is to write to the Government requesting more decisive action on Climate change. Whatever our religious beliefs, I'd like to think we can all make that little sacrifice of time and effort before Easter to support WDM's call for a Public Enquiry on this issue. I think Dickens would be leading the way.

Richard Martin, WDM Medway group Co-ordinator

25 February 2008

British banks funding climate change

Taken from a letter to the FT:

British banks urgently need to review their lending policies in the light of the climate change threat.

Given the present state of technology, investment in traditional coal-fired power stations is incompatible with a smooth and timely transition to a low carbon economy. On the contrary, new coal power stations without functioning carbon capture and storage built in from the outset will destroy any realistic prospect of meeting current UK CO2 emission reduction targets.

We are extremely concerned by recent loans made by British high street banks. During 2007, the Royal Bank of Scotland arranged around $1 billion for construction and operation of two US coal plants. RBS, HSBC and Barclays helped arrange almost $8 billion of loans for E.ON, the company behind plans for a new conventional coal plant at Kingsnorth.

In contrast, US banks last week released a set of “Carbon Principles”, increasing restrictions on loans to coal by recognizing the climate risks associated with financing such high emissions.

Given the climate threat that coal presents, and in the absence of carbon capture and storage as an existing and proven technology, we call on British banks to acknowledge the seriousness of climate change by announcing an immediate moratorium on all financing of traditional coal power plants, extraction and associated infrastructure.

Fay Mansell, Chair, National Federation of Women's Institutes
Benedict Southworth, Director, World Development Movement
Dr. Daleep Mukarji, Director, Christian Aid
Graham Wynne, Chief Executive, RSPB
Matthew Frost, Chief Executive, Tearfund
Ian Leggett, Director, People & Planet
Mika Minio-Paluello, PLATFORM

22 February 2008

Local opposition to the new Kingsnorth power station

The story goes that my step-grandfather, who was very deaf, used to drive his steam-roller through the streets of Medway on his way to various building sites. He was oblivious to the tailbacks behind him. For one job, he had to drive it across Rochester bridge, through Strood town centre, up Frindsbury Hill, and out onto the Hoo Peninsula – and then back again at teatime. This went on for many months. Why? He was part of the construction team at the then new Kingsnorth coal-fired power station.

Every Saturday my daughter and I walk from Gillingham to the Riverside Country Park, along the banks of the Medway. In the foreground is the ever-changing flow of water, which at high tide comes right up to the banks but at low-tide exposes a vast expanse of mud. Although the full river is very attractive, it is the low tide that makes the area important: here hundreds of thousands of migratory birds make feeding stops en route to their destinations. Yesterday at the Country Park the RSPB had an “Aren’t Birds Brilliant?” event for children: so far this week they have spotted 54 different species. The mud flats, and the bird life they sustain, are what persuaded the government to abandon plans to build the third London airport on the Isle of Grain. All this natural beauty and wildlife is in the foreground as we walk.

If we raise our eyes across to the far bank of the river, what do we see? None other than the Kingsnorth power station. It is now virtually obsolete: as obsolete as a steam-roller. And yet, if E.ON get their way, it is going to be replaced with another coal-fired power station. No doubt the construction techniques will be as modern and efficient as possible. Yet the technology inside it will not be modern: in fact it won’t be any less polluting than the current one.

Thankfully, I now have a chance to stop these plans. The people of Medway, supported by national campaigns from groups like the RSPB, and with the support of our MPs, defeated the airport plans. We now need to galvanise people to oppose the new Kingsnorth. Through WDM’s expertise, our local group can hopefully play a big part in this. I know we can succeed. Let’s drive a steam-roller through these plans!

Richard Martin, WDM Medway group Co-ordinator

Visit WDM Medway group's web page

Take action: email John Hutton and demand a public inquiry

Photo: Peter Cook (creative commons)

Protest outside E.ON's London office

Another video of the protest outside E.ON's London office that took place in January, following the announcement of plans to build a new coal power station at Kingsnorth in Kent.

Youth and students conference on climate change at LSE

From the Red Alert website:

Red Alert Teach-In!

Saturday 8th March 2008 youth and students conference

The facts are no longer in doubt, nor disputed. Climate change is happening and it threatens to lead to a 21st century marked by a series of ecological and human catastrophes. This can be averted but only if action is taken now to drastically cut CO2 emissions and move to renewable energy sources.

The mega corporations and world leaders are well aware of these basic facts. They are now going out of their way to show their ecological credentials. But they continue with the same policies - they refuse to do anything to tackle their addiction to fossil fuels. At the UN Climate Conference in Bali last December they decided to' keep talking' for another two years - a promise that Gordon Brown described as 'historic'.

Britain is one of Western Europe's biggest polluters. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair before him tried to present Britain as 'leading the way' on climate change. But now looks set to agree to a massive expansion of Heathrow airport, and to build a generation of coal and nuclear power stations. Waiting in the wings to profit out of these plans are corporate polluters, like E.ON, who last year made $6.4 billion from pumping CO2 in the atmosphere.

Young people and students have a massive responsibility to lead the fight back on climate change. It is our future that is today being frittered away by the decision made in today's corridors of power. The Red Alert conference is an opportunity for students and youth to discuss ideas, educate ourselves and plan actions and campaigning.
The conference is taking place: 11am - 5pm March 8th at the London School of Economics, Aldwych / Holborn, London

For more information, timetables and booking see the Red Alert website.

19 February 2008

Kingsnorth 2 and carbon capture technology

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has often been touted by supporters of the Kingsnorth 2 power station project as a way of generating electricity from 'clean coal'. There's a nice graphic on the BBC website which shows how in theory the practice would work. E.ON themselves describe Kingsnorth 2 as a 'cleaner' coal plant (see their website here).

However despite the publicity surrounding CCS, and attempts to link it to the new generation of coal plants threatened for the UK, the technology itself has yet to be tested on any large scale.

Joss Garman from Greenpeace writes:

"The theoretical possibility of CCS is being used by government and industry as a wedge to drive through new coal fired power stations in the UK. Kingsnorth 2, and others like Tilbury, Blyth, Ferrybridge, High Marnham, Longannet and Cockenzie, would each emit millions of tons of CO2 and are NOT CCS plants. They are plain old fashioned coal plants."
Read more about CCS and Kingsnorth on Greenpeace's website

18 February 2008

E.ON:"If the population doesn't want the plant, we won't build it"

Could this be the shape of things to come?

It seems E.ON are getting cold feet about refitting one of their German power stations, at Staudinger near Frankfurt, after sustained popular protest against it.

Environmental campaigners, outraged that E.ON is continuing to pursue fossil fuels projects in a time of climate crisis, have successfully slowed the project by contesting coal storage facilities at the site, which would be essential for the revamp.

E.ON have long had their eye on increasing capacity of the Staudinger plant. However, it appears that popular opposition is putting the wind up them.

E.ON Chief Executive Wulf Bernotat glossed over the issue, saying that EON had ample opportunities to invest in power across Europe and would shift funds elsewhere if it faced too much protest.

Crucially he stated: "If the population doesn't want the plant, we won't build it"

So Wulf, does that go for Kingsnorth too?

14 February 2008

We love you Gordon

Valentines day typically is reserved for mushy couples sending messages to each other in the personal columns of the newspapers. So the World Development Movement (WDM) have been placing ads in newspapers across the land. Our special messages for Gordon Brown include:

Roses are red, violets are blue, make it 80% and include flights too!
Keep us cool, Love W.D.M
(The Independent)
Gordon Brown: I love a cool climate, target my heart with 80% and flying - WDM (The Times)
and many more in the regional newspapers, placed by our local groups.

The government's new climate bill needs to include an 80% cut and emissions from flying in order to be effective in halting the worst effects of climate change. A strong climate bill should make projects like the new power station at Kingsnorth untenable.

Even MPs need to know that you're thinking of them on Valentine's Day - and you can send your very own e-Valentine's card to your MP telling him or her just how much you care, well, care about the Climate Change Bill that is.

Send an e-Valentine's card (via the iCount website)

Climate campaigners vs Edelman: a PR battle of David and Goliath proportions

The World Development Movement (WDM) has learned that energy giant E.ON has hired the public relations (PR) giant, Edelman UK, to handle its PR or ‘spin’, as it’s more commonly known, for ‘project Kingsnorth’. Clearly, E.ON’s fragile feathers have already been ruffled by WDM and other campaigners at Greenpeace, Christian Aid, who are working hard to stop E.ON and the government’s plans for a speedy consent to Kingsnorth.

The PR firm that will be feeding the media with the latest greenwash, undoubtedly thought up over unfairly traded macchiato and skinny-hint-of-vanilla lattes, is Edelman UK, part of the global Edelman group. Edelman is the biggest independent PR firm in the world and is well-known for representing the more controversial interests of governments and big business and making them sound good. Past and present clients are believed to include Wal-Mart, Starbucks Coffee, Shell, Coca-Cola, all of which are, of course, familiar to campaigners that put people before profit.

It’s clear that E.ON have called in the big guns and are preparing themselves for a PR battle to win the hearts and minds of the British public. So brace yourselves, in the coming months, you can expect to be inundated with headlines extolling the virtues of: 'Carbon Capture and Storage', 'Clean Coal', 'Energy efficient E.ON'. Claims which are unproven, implausable and in some cases, impossible.

As WDM’s press officer, it is my job to interest the media in the issues that we are campaigning on. Currently, a huge focus for us is to highlight the very real impact that climate change and consequently, the carbon-belching Kingsnorth, will have on people in the developing world. I can’t help but feel both a little daunted but also hugely excited at the prospect of going head-to-head in a David and Goliath style PR clash with E.ON and their pals at Edelman UK. Judging from the sheer number of PR pros and hard cash, the likelihood of Edelman UK winning the battle over Kingsnorth seems like a foregone conclusion. Although the PR machine at WDM is more ‘streamlined’, we have reasoned argument and the science of climate change backing us. Being right will out-spin the best that Edelman have got. Bring it on!

Kate Blagojevic

See also: Prince Charles joins clamour as industry greenwash stepped up
and this article, which mentions John Hutton - the minister who will be deciding if we have a public enquiry into the new coal power station - and his connection to Edelman UK.

11 February 2008

Campaigners threaten legal action against Kingsnorth

Ministers have been threatened with legal action if they press on with plans to build a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth without holding a public enquiry.

In a letter to the Minister for Business, John Hutton, lawyers acting on behalf of Greenpeace argued: "It is not rationally or fairly open to you to conclude otherwise than that a public inquiry is appropriate in this case."

Medway council recommended a public inquiry back in January when they controversially granted planning permission for the power station to be built, despite protests from local residents.

Susequently emails obtained from freedom of information requests have exposed that the requirements for carbon capture technology have been dropped from the proposal.

You can write a message to John Hutton to ask for a public inquiry on the website.

Read more about Greenpeace's action against Kingsnorth on their website.
Read more on the Financial Times website

8 February 2008

James Hansen on Kingsnorth

Talking on BBC Radio this morning, Dr James Hansen described the proposed Kingsnorth power station as:

"A terrible idea. One power plant with a lifetime of several decades will destroy the efforts of millions of citizens to reduce their emissions"
James Hansen heads NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies and is best known for his research in the field of climatology and his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue.
He is an outspoken critic on the Bush administration's policy towards climate change.
You can listen to the interview here.
James Hansen was also featured in the Sunday Times.

6 February 2008

Greenpeace blockades Coal UK conference

This morning protestors from Greenpeace have blockaded the entrances to Lord's cricket ground - which is hosting the Coal UK conference.

Delegates who paid £625 to hear Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks discuss the government's energy policy plans will be greeted by protestors chained to baracades.

Last week it was widely reported that following requests from German power corporation E.ON, the government had dropped requirements for carbon capture technologies to be incorporated in the coal fired power station planned at Kingsnorth in Kent.

The proposed Kingsnorth power station would produce more CO2 than the whole of Ghana, and would make a mockery of UK promises to cut emissions. The impacts of climate change will hit the world's poor the hardest.

As well as planning to give the opening speech at Coal Conference 2008, Malcolm Wicks also sits on the board of the UK coal forum, whose purpose it is to "bring forward ways of strengthening the industry, and working to ensure the UK has the right framework to secure the long term future of coal fired generation".

You can take action against Kingsnorth, and the new generation of coal fired power stations at

For more information about the Greenpeace action, and photographs of the event, visit their website.

1 February 2008

Are the government's green promises hot air?

Kingsnorth power station was featured on Newsnight last night (Thursday 31st January)

According to emails obtained by Greenpeace by a freedom of information request, the government is not going to insist on carbon capture and storage technology to be built from the onset, or even that the power plant is ready to fit such technology when it is available.

Greenpeace have more information, including the email communications between the government and E.ON

The Financial Times are covering the story as well: Ministers accused of conniving with Eon

and the Guardian: Energy firm wants carbon freedom at new coal-fired plant

The news has come to light the very same day that the World Development Movement has revealed that government claims of a 12% reduction in CO2 emissions are "pure fiction, aided by Enron-esque accounting" read the WDM press release here.

Greenpeace have an online action calling for a public enquiry into the new coal plant