Campaigners and communities call on Government to stop Drax from fuelling environmental injustice, forest destruction and climate breakdown

Campaigners and communities call on Government to stop Drax from fuelling environmental injustice, forest destruction and climate breakdown

London, 9th October 2019 – A coalition of campaigners and communities have gathered outside the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to condemn the UK Government’s decision to allow Drax Plc to build the UK’s biggest ever gas power capacity [1] and to call on the government to scrap subsidies of £1 billion a year for burning wood in power stations, the vast majority of which go to Drax power station in Yorkshire and to redirect them to genuinely low-carbon wind and solar power, and to refuse any subsidies for Drax’s coal and gas burning [2]. The demonstration includes speeches from campaigners against biomass coal and gas and Extinction Rebellion activists, as well as recordings of statements from communities affected by Drax’s coal and wood pellet sourcing overseas, and a model of Drax’s 850-foot chimney.

With the climate crisis topping a recent poll as the most important issue for the public [3], and Extinction Rebellion protesters taking to the streets against the UK Government’s inaction [4], groups are calling for the closure of the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter, Drax power station. Drax is the world’s largest burner of biomass, an energy source that is no better for the climate than coal, and hampers any efforts to tackle the escalating biodiversity crisis [5]. The gas power units approved last week would make it the UK’s biggest fossil fuel burner, too.

Many communities have suffered from Drax’s burning, from the siting of wood pellet mills in US towns already at the sharp end of environmental injustice [6], to the entire villages destroyed and poisoned from coal mining in Russia [7].

Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org, put his support behind the protest, saying:

‘All anyone is doing by subsidising Drax is helping bail out their shareholders. That’s not a good use of our money, any more than it’s a good use of the beautiful forests of the American Southeast to cut them up, turn them into pellets and ship them off to Britain. That’s not how we will get out of this crisis.’

James Woodley, an Environmental Biologist and resident of Northampton County, North Carolina, an area severely affected by wood pellet production for Drax’s biomass burning, said: ‘Now that the forests are gone, so is the sense of community. Dust is everywhere; even people are breathing in dust and becoming sick from it. When Enviva [a Drax pellet supplier] moved to our community, and to other poor communities in the South-eastern US, the company promised to bring hope to the hopeless, to reduce poverty, but what they ended up bringing was truckloads of logs, daily, constantly barrelling through.’

Campaigners and communities call on Government to stop Drax from fuelling environmental injustice, forest destruction and climate breakdown

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch said: ‘Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change requires an end to fossil fuel burning and the protection of the world’s remaining ecosystems. Drax’s continued burning of coal and of millions of tonnes of forest wood every year makes this impossible, as does the approval of the new gas power units. None of those activities are compatible with taking the climate emergency seriously. We desperately need a just transition to create thousands of decent, well-paid jobs, protect and restore forests and ecosystems, and support and redistribute resources for communities on the frontline against climate chaos, environmental injustice and extractivism.’

Notes

[1] https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2019/drax-repower-decision-pr/

[2] https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/AxeDrax-briefing-2019.pdf

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/18/climate-crisis-seen-as-most-important-issue-by-public-poll-shows

[4] Article covering XR protests

[5] https://easac.eu/press-releases/details/easac-s-environmental-experts-call-for-international-action-to-restrict-climate-damaging-forest-bioe/

[6] https://www.coalaction.org.uk/2018/05/slow-death-in-siberia

[7] https://rachelcarsoncouncil.org/clear-cut/

[8] http://repower.drax.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Drax-Repower-Project-Overview-Report-Rev-3-08.01.18.pdf

[9] The £2.1 million per day subsidy figure is calculated from the figures presented by Drax in its 2018 Annual Report

[10] https://www.peoplesdemands.org/

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