Climate Activists Evicted from Labour Conference Fringe Event Sponsored by Power Station Firm
The campaigners argued that the party should not be aligning itself to the company, which emitted million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year
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Climate change activists were evicted from a Labour Party Conference fringe event today sponsored by Drax – the company behind a biomass-fuelled power station still emitting millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Labour has pledged to lower energy bills by turning the UK into a green powerhouse and to put climate change at the heart of its international relations.
The campaigners were made to leave the meeting in Liverpool – entitled ‘Reaching Net Zero: How can the UK Boost Energy Security and Invest in Green Jobs?’ – at which speakers included Clare Harbord, Drax’s director of corporate affairs and executive committee member; and Dr Alan Whitehead, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Green New Deal and Energy.
The activists called for Labour to cut ties with Drax and to stop providing a platform for what they claim is ‘corporate greenwashing’.
Drax power station, near Selby in north Yorkshire, made the conversion from coal to wood biofuel in the mid-to-late 2000s but, according to its latest annual report, it still emitted 13.42 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year making it the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the UK.
Earlier this month, the EU voted to end public subsidies for burning trees for energy which it now recognises has a negative impact on the environment. However, wood biofuel is still classified as a “renewable energy” in the UK, with Drax currently receiving more than £2.5 million a day in Government money funded via a green surcharge levied on energy bills.
BECCS [Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture, Use and Storage] is a technology currently being developed by Drax which, if proven to work, will be used to capture carbon before it enters the atmosphere and store it under the North Sea.
Merry Dickinson, who was led away by security, justified her disruption of the meeting to expose “greenwashing”. She told Byline Times that the actions of Drax are “pushing us towards climate breakdown and we didn’t feel like we could let this slide”.
Molly Jones, who was also removed from the meeting, said: “When Labour props up these corporate interests and greed that are harmful to workers and communities it makes me question my vote. Labour needs to stop supporting Drax and support genuine renewables instead.”
Labour Party member Ellen Robottom said she was “horrified” that it is accepting sponsorship from Drax. She accused the biomass-power industry of being responsible for “widespread destruction of irreplaceable forest ecosystems and catastrophic reduction of carbon sequestration capacity” and said that Labour should be exposing this “not colluding with it”.
Sally Clark, a spokesperson from Biofuelwatch, has criticised Labour for accepting sponsorship from a company which she accused of “devastating forests, wildlife and communities around the world, whilst also making the climate crisis worse”.
“If Labour is serious about its pledge to cut emissions and support genuinely renewable wind and solar power, the Party urgently needs to end its links to Drax,” she added.
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A Drax spokesperson told Byline Times that “a very small number of people attending the event tried to disrupt the discussion and were unwilling to listen to the views of the panellists who were in agreement that in order to reach net zero the world needs to use a range of energy solutions including wind, solar, biomass and BECCS”.
“Climate change is the biggest challenge this generation faces,” they added. “Over the last decade, Drax has reduced its carbon emissions from fossil fuels by almost 100% using sustainable biomass.”
As the use of sustainable biomass is considered to be CO2-neutral at the point of combustion in the UK, the harmful carbon emissions from burning wood biofuel are counted as zero in official reporting. However, a report by the European Academies Science Advisory Council last year stated that woody biomass for power is not effective in mitigating climate change and may even increase the risk of dangerous climate change.
Dr Alan Whitehead MP and Shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband did not respond to a request for comment.