Court Deals Major Blow to UK Coal fired power plans
Verdict marks a 'tipping point' for climate change movement
London, United Kingdom, 10 September 2008 -
British Government Ministers
suffered a blow to their energy plans today as six Greenpeace UK
volunteers were acquitted of criminal damage by a Crown Court jury in a
case that centred on the contribution made to climate change by burning
The charges arose after the
six attempted to shut down the Kingsnorth
coal-fired power station in Kent last year by scaling the chimney and
painting the Prime Minister's name down the side. The defendants pleaded
'not guilty' and relied in court on the defence of 'lawful excuse' -
claiming they shut the power station in order to defend property of a
greater value from the global impact of climate change.
acquittal is a potent challenge to the UK Government's plans
new coal-fired power stations from jurors representing ordinary people
in Britain who, after hearing the evidence, supported the right to take
direct action in order to protect the climate. It stands as an example
to governments everywhere and an inspiration to people world-wide that
they can and should take a stand against coal fired power stations in
defence of the climate.
Over five days of evidence, Maidstone Crown Court
heard testimony from
the world's leading climate scientist, an Inuit leader from Greenland
and the environment adviser to the UK Conservative party leader. The
jury was told that Kingsnorth emits 20,000 tonnes of CO2 every day - the
same amount as the 30 least-polluting countries in the world combined -
and that the Government has advanced plans to build a new coal-fired
power station next to the existing site on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent.
The 'not guilty' verdict means the jury
believed that shutting down the
coal plant was justified in the context of the damage to property caused
around the world by CO2 emissions from Kingsnorth.
marks a tipping point for the climate change movement,"
said Ben Stewart, one of the defendants. "If jurors from the heart of
Middle England say it's legitimate for a direct action group to shut
down a coal-fired power station because of the harm it does to our
planet, then where does that leave government energy policy? We have the
clean technologies at hand to power our economy, it's time we turned to
them instead of coal."
defendant, Emily Hall, said after her acquittal: "This is a
blow for Prime Minster Gordon Brown and his plans for new coal-fired
power stations. It wasn't only us in the dock, it was coal-fired power
generation as well. After this verdict, the only people left in Britain
who think new coal is a good idea are Business Secretary John Hutton and
the Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks. It's time the Prime Minister stepped
in, showed some leadership, and embraced a clean energy future for
defence called as a witness Professor James Hansen, a NASA
who advises Al Gore and is known as the world's leading climate
scientist. Hansen told the court that more than a million species would
be made extinct because of climate change and calculated that Kingsnorth
would proportionally be responsible for 400 of these. "We are in grave
peril," he told the jury. He said he agreed with Al Gore's statement
that more people should be chaining themselves to coal-powered stations.
"Somebody needs to step forward and say there has to be a moratorium,
draw a line in the sand and say no more coal-fired power stations."
Asked by Michael Wolkind QC,
for the defence, if carbon dioxide damages
property, Hansen replied, "Yes, it does." Asked if stopping emissions of
any amount of it therefore protects property, he replied, "Yes it does,
in proportion to the amount." He added that he thought there was an
immediate need to protect property at risk from climate change.
Party green adviser Zac Goldsmith also gave evidence for
the defence. He told the court: "By building a coal-power plant in this
country, it makes it very much harder in exerting pressure on countries
like China and India. I think that's something that is felt in
Government circles." He later told the jury: "Legalities aside, I
suppose if a crime is intended to prevent much larger crimes, I think
then a lot of people would consider that as justified and a good thing."
Some of the
property the court was told was in immediate need of
protection included parts of Kent at risk from rising sea levels, the
Pacific island state of Tuvalu and areas of Greenland. The defendants
also cited the Arctic ice sheet, China's Yellow River region, the Larsen
B ice shelf in Antarctica, coastal areas of Bangladesh and the city of
The acquittal is the first case
where preventing property damage from
climate change has been used as part of a 'lawful excuse' defence in
court. The defence has previously been successfully deployed by
defendants accused of damaging a military jet bound for Indonesia to be
used in the war against East Timor before independence.
The defendants had intended to paint
'GORDON BIN IT' down the side of
the chimney but were served a High Court injunction by police
helicopter, meaning they only got as far as painting the Prime
Minister's first name.
Last month a new report by
Poyry - Europe's leading energy consultants -
concluded that Britain could meet its energy demands without new coal.
If the UK hit its existing efficiency and renewables targets it would
negate the case for a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth and at
least seven other proposed sites. An earlier Poyry report, published in
June, found at least 16 gigawatts of untapped potential from 'Combined
Heat and Power' plants - super-efficient power stations that are popular
in Scandinavia but little used in the UK.