Kingsnorth; mass protest vs. business politics

Following my involvement with the G20 Voice project, I’ve kept in touch with the team at Oxfam and am always keen to help spread the word about new initiatives.

Accordingly, their next project stems from E.ON’s plans to replace the dual-fired Kingsnorth power station with a coal-fire one, the first to be built in the UK in over 20 years.

Even with the proposed ‘carbon capture’ equipment in place that will theoretically (it’s currently unproven) remove 25% of the emissions, the power station will release 700 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. That’s equal to the amount that the whole of Tunisia produces.

If this goes ahead, plans will be put in place to build five more across the UK. Even if just this one is built, the goal of reducing 80% of carbon emissions by 2050 (and stopping the world’s temperature from rising by a further 2°C) is pretty much lost. 2°C is a critical threshold. An increase in global mean temperature by two degrees above pre-industrial levels will increase the likelihood of irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.

As we build up to the UN Summit in Copenhagen this December, Oxfam and several other organisations are looking for a resolution to this issue. This one project could act as a proofpoint that Gordon Brown is willing to prove himself and the UK to be world leaders on preventing climate change.

However, if Kingsnorth and other potential power stations are given the ok, then why should developing economies like China or India listen to the same argument? Our Domestic policies have to reflect our International ones.

Now, there have already been several delays to the build, brought about by substantial public protest and implemented by E.ON themselves. And last month, Ed Miliband asked for a further review of the proposed plans for Kingsnorth.

To support this, Oxfam are holding a Summer Fete about 10 minutes away from the Kingsnorth plot, with music acts, roving entertainers, face painting and speakers from around the world. It’s a completely legal demonstration that represents a wide variety of people, with several organisations including the WI, Christian Aid and the RSPB all getting involved. For more logistics, take a look at

Though I’m keen to support citizen activism, I wonder if they will be able to get the numbers of people down there to make Gordon Brown and the like really pay attention. Kingsnorth is pretty far out, so if you can’t go down there but want to lend your support, you can still pledge your concern by signing the ‘Big If’ petition, created by Greenpeace. .

The Kingsnorth plans have come under criticism for a long time, but at a time when the economy is failing and Brown is under substantial pressure from both sides of his Cabinet (John Hutton is in favour, believing that “greater use of coal was needed to keep the lights on and diversify Britain’s energy supplies”), will this be enough?

What is the turning point, and when does mass public opinion start to overtake business-focused political moves? It’s a question I’ve been toying with for a while and this seems to have come at just the right time for me to voice it. I have no answers, but I think watching this campaign develop could lead me to some interesting conclusions.

2 responses to “Kingsnorth; mass protest vs. business politics”

  1. Jim Wild

    Very interesting, shocking to think just how much CO2 this would produce. ‘Big If’ petition signed!

    Also do you think potentially its harder for green issues to get the media coverage they fully deserve at the moment?

  2. VC

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for signing up, and yes, it’s disappointing for me to see plans to return to such archaic production of power, especially when there are so many more alternatives. Yes, they may involve greater effort, but we can’t rely on the quickest and easiest option all of the time.

    I think actually, the press are very switched on to Green issues at the moment. However, so many businesses are ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ that they are becoming quite jaded towards stories that try to hijack issues like the above.

Leave a Reply