Climate Camp

The background to Climate Camp is as follows:

This week the third annual Camp for Climate Action is taking place in southern England. 2,000 activists are expected to attend, camping in a field near Kingsnorth coal power station in Kent, 30 miles east of London, to attend workshops, camp in self-managing, ecologically-sustainable "barrios", and prepare for mass direct action against the power station on Saturday 9 August.

There are plans for a Great Rebel Raft Regatta, sailing home-made rafts down stream to the power station, as well as incursions by land and possibly by air, all designed to close down the power station for the day.

Climate Camp is organised by grassroots activists from all over Britain in open, consensus-based planning meetings that go on for much of the year preceding the camp itself.

E.ON, the German power company, plans to pull down Kingsnorth and replace it with a new coal-fuelled power station that will emit over 6m tons of CO2 a year. Scientists fear that government approval for these plans will have a knock-on effect, leading to a wave of new coal power stations across Europe.

Former government chief scientist Professor Sir David King said recently:

"There’s little doubt that if we burn all of the coal that sits below the earth’s surface, we can return the planet to the condition it was in 50 million years ago when the Antarctic was a tropical forest and much of the rest of the planet would be pretty difficult for human beings to live on.

"We’ve got to see that coal is not a useful resource to burn unless we can recapture the carbon that is produced by burning it.

"We therefore need to work positively towards carbon capture and storage. If we can manage that, then of course we can continue to use coal to drive our economies – but frankly, I haven’t seen the proof that that can be done.

"This is still unproven technology and I think until it’s proven, it’s dangerous to assume that we can continue to use coal."

Jim Hanson, senior climate change scientist at Nasa, wrote to Gordon Brown last year calling for a ban on new coal, stating that Brown’s decision on Kingsnorth has "the potential to influence the future of the planet".

He says: "We are fast approaching a series of tipping points. Changes such as the melting of the Arctic ice cap, the acidification of the oceans and the global rises in temperature could be approaching the point of becoming irreversible."

"In the face of such threats it is madness to propose a new generation of power plants based on burning coal, which is the dirtiest and most polluting of all the fossil fuels. We need a moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants and we must phase out the existing ones within two decades."

E.ON argues that the new power station will be upgraded at some future date with carbon capture and storage technology, making it a "clean coal" power station. Protestors want the new technology to be proven before any new coal power stations are contemplated.

For a good debate on this question, listen to Dr Simon Lewis, of Leeds University, and Dr David Brown, of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, on BBC Radio’s flagship Today programme (Saturday 2 August 2008). Simon Lewis has an article in the Guardian here.

The Climate Camp website is here. A mainstream-media-hosted blog is here.

There’s a good Channel 4 film clip about Climate Camp (from Monday 4 August) here. Author and activist George Monbiot has written on the need to go to Climate Camp here and Caroline Lucas MEP has written a blog entry about policing of the camp here.

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