What did the UK Climate Movement do in 2008?
Posted by KM on January 5, 2009
[This was written for the climate camp newsletter, but please spread far and wide]
Without a doubt, 2008 was an incredible year for the UK climate movement. There’s been a diverse display of incredible actions from Scotland to Plymouth throughout the year, as more people than ever before are realising its up to us to prevent climate catastrophe as no one’s going to do it for us!
In January, the actions got off to a creative start when 30 Penguins from Plane Stupid invaded the BA sponsored ice rink at the National History Museum. A few days later, up in Scotland, 20 activists blockaded the entrance to Greer Aviation, a private jet company at Edinburgh Airport.
Then at the start of February biofuels took centre stage as protests and actions took place at Tescos across the country in protest at their promotion of grossly unsustainable biofuel use. It was back to aviation at the end of the month when 3,000 people attended at rally against Heathrow Expansion, organised by HACAN ClearSkies and NoTRAG and supported by 14 councils in the Heathrow area. It was on this same day that 4 Greenpeace protesters managed to climb on top of a short haul flight parked up in Terminal 1, revealing a banner across the plane’s tailfin. To top it off, two days later 5 activists from Plane Stupid unfurled large banners from the roof of the Houses of Parliament, achieving angry remarks from the Prime Minister down in the chamber! Up north flood victims from Yorkshire and Humberside blockaded council offices in protest at their continued support for aviation expansion.
In March, activists from the UK travelled to Brussels to blockade almost all the entrances to the World Biofuels Market. It was all excitement a week later when the Press Complaints Commissions upheld a complaint from the Camp for Climate Action that the Evening Standard’s coverage of the Heathrow protest was inaccurate because it was fabricated. It related to accusations that activists planned to leave hoax bomb packages lying around airport terminals. Keeping with aviation, the shambles that was the opening of T5 at Heathrow was greeted by a not so shambolic flash mob of activists all revealing bright red T-Shirts with the words “Stop Airport Expansion”.
The 1st of April was indeed Fossil Fools Day, seeing actions against those foolishly meddling with fossil fuels take place across the country. E.ON’s offices were blockaded in Nottingham, the Ffos-y-Fran open cast coal mine was shut down in Wales; the UK’s largest off shore gas terminal was blockaded in Norfolk; there were protests against RBS in Cambridge; petrol stations shut down in Southampton and Plymouth; jesters surrounding the Department for Business, Evil and Regulatory Reform (DBERR); People and Planet at Westminster; 34 SUVs and sports cars sabotaged in Edinburgh; plus many more exciting actions and events too numerous to mention.
Yet, after all that energy dispensed, the movement failed to show any signs of weariness. Two days later Aberthaw Power Station had its multiple entrances blockaded by activists from Bath, Cardiff and Oxford. Then came the news that a spy, working for C2i International, had been attempting to infiltrate Plane Stupid. Plane Stupid activists weren’t having any of it, however, and exposed him to the world. Then with one Parliament clearly not enough, on the 14th April activists scaled the Scottish Parliament roof, dropping a banner reading: “Choose a Future: Say no to airport expansion”. The following month, over 50 people took part in a mass trespass in Derbyshire. They were trespassing on land set aside for an open cast coal mine, owned by UK Coal and backing onto a country park.
June saw another national day of action, this time on Food and Climate Change. The day saw actions and events across the land, such as free vegan food give aways and the occupation of a GM lab. Then the spotlight shifted back to coal on the 13th June in a spectacular action that saw 29 activists halt a train carrying coal to Drax Power Station. The activists occupied the train for 16 hours while shovelling coal from the train onto the track. On the 17th June Plane Stupid Scotland unveiled a five metre high ‘aviation elephant’ at a transport and climate change conference in Edinburgh. Then activists showed they weren’t going to let the land in Derbyshire be destroyed for new coal without a fight. They occupied what became known as Bodge House for several weeks, due for demolition to enable the open cast mining to proceed. Also during this time two tunnellers spent a week under the ground on the Derbyshire site.
July brought with it a second ‘Stop Heathrow Expansion’ flash mob, this time outside the Department for Transport where flash mobbers gathered to hurl paper planes at the then Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. On the 16th July the ‘Greenwash Guerrillas’ targeted the Guardian’s Climate Change Summit in Islington, protesting against E.ON’s sponsorship of the event. Meanwhile, across the other side of London activists simultaneously occupied Edelman PR, the world’s biggest PR Company, hired by E.ON earlier in the year (after the Camp for Climate Action’s announcement to go to Kingsnorth “coincidentally”). The month also saw the disabling of 32 SUVs in Oxford, and a Plane Stupid Activist superglued himself to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street!
The end of July saw the Camp for Climate Action drawing near. To kick things off a conference was held near Heathrow Airport, the location of last year’s camp, which brought together groups opposed to the airport’s expansion. The following day the Climate Caravan set off on its 60 mile journey from Heathrow to Kingsnorth. The course of this journey saw many events take place, such as the Putney Climate Change Debate that took place in the same church as the historic Putney Debates of 1647. There were also a variety of workshops, talks, tours, and displays along the way, with the caravan joining the Campaign Against Climate Change for a march to the camp for the final hurdle.
After months of planning, 100s of activists took the site for the Camp for Climate Action on the 30th July in broad daylight. The camp saw a gigantic and repressive police presence, far worse than any camps gone previously. Yet despite draconian use of stop and search powers and violent police incursions onto the site with large amounts of equipment seized, it was the campers who triumphed with brilliant displays of resistance throughout the week. This meant the camp proved to be yet another hugely successful week of education, sustainable living, and direct action attended by a record number of participants.
The camp’s Day of Mass Action saw marchers, climbers, and rafters head from all directions towards the power station. Some of the marchers chose to blockade the front entrance, while the Green Bloc scaled perimeter fences. At the same time many participants joined the Great Rebel Raft Regatta, which sailed its way down the River Medway. One raft reportedly caused the power station’s water supply to be cut off.
But the Mass Action was only one of many actions taking place during the week. There were banner drops at Gatwick, students targeting RBS headquarters, a blockade of Vopak Biofuel Depot in Thurrock, a naked glue-on at DBERR, an office occupation of mining company BHP Billiton, and finally a group of tiny activists climbed on top of the Lego Kingsnorth Power Station at the E.ON sponsored Legoland.
The 10th September saw a historic verdict when 6 Greenpeace Protesters, who had scaled the tower at Kingsnorth and painted it with slogans causing an estimated £30,000 damage, were found Not Guilty after arguing the defence of ‘lawful excuse’, having acted to protect property around the world in immediate need of protection from the impacts of climate change.
October saw The Climate Rush, with a thousand demonstrators gathering in Parliament Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Suffragette Rush. After congregating in full suffragette costume the demonstrators made a rush for parliament.
E.ON, BP, Shell, and RBS were among the climate criminals who had their chances of recruiting graduates wrecked at universities across the country throughout the career fair season. Student activists mercilessly disrupted stalls and events across the UK by a variety of creative means. Things got so bad for E.ON that they just stopped turning up halfway through their campus tour.
The end of November saw 48 hours of action against E.ON, bringing about immensely visual actions in many towns and cities. One such action featured two minibus loads of santas occupying and superglueing themselves to E.ON’s headquarters in Coventry. The santas’ only presents for E.ON were lumps of filthy coal. Then, as an early Christmas present, came the news (via The Times) that an intruder had broken into Kingsnorth power station and turned off one of the generators. This meant that 500 megawatts of coal-produced power was lost from the grid, enough the power a city the size of Bristol. Nice one!
Despite the cold, December saw the actions keep on rocking. There was the annual climate march in London, attended by thousands and taking place simultaneously with marches in 70 other countries. Then, in the early morning of the 8th December came the wonderful news that Plane Stupid had succeeded in shutting down Stansted airport. 57 activists breached security at the airport and managed to prevent over 50 flights from taking off. On the 15th December 30 activists from Coal Action Scotland blockaded Ravenstruther coal terminal, operated by Scottish Coal, for 9 hours.
So what a year it was, but with time running out to tackle runaway climate change, we can only afford to make 2009 even better. Hopefully these reminders will give us all some inspiration and ideas for what we might get up to in the coming months.
Come to the Camp for Climate Action New Year Gathering to get involved: 31stJan-1stFeb in Oxford. Everyone is welcome! Everyone is needed! http://www.climatecamp.org.uk/node/471