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Today, the leaders of the UK's largest coalition dedicated to stopping climate change warned Gordon Brown that a green light for a new unabated coal plant at Kingsnorth will lock Britain into decades of spiralling emissions and severely undermine the government's ability to meet its climate targets.

At the invitation of the local community, leaders from a diverse range of organisations including the Women's Institute, RSPB, Oxfam and Greenpeace who make up the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition planted flags in the ground at Kingsnorth to show Mr Brown the breadth of opposition he faces if he gives the go ahead to a fleet of new unabated coal plants. Instead, the coalition demands that he invests in renewables and makes massive improvements to energy efficiency.

The move comes on the same day as the publication of a new report from an influential parliamentary committee which warns that Government plans to develop new coal-fired power plants are "failing to take adequate account of the environmental impact of coal". (1)The report states that "replacing old coal-fired power stations with new ones, rather than using alternative energy sources, locks Britain into a high level of emissions for many years to come".(2)

In a letter to Mr Brown the coalition tells the PM that Kingsnorth is one of the most important climate change decisions of his premiership. It goes on to explain how building new coal plants in the UK would send the wrong signal to countries like China and India, and could thwart a new global deal on climate change. The organisations argue that by transforming Britain into a low-carbon economy, the Prime Minister would prove the case internationally that renewables and energy efficiency can protect the climate and keep the lights on.

Fay Mansell, Chair of the National Federation of Women's Institutes said:
"The WI is here today to call for green energy decisions to be made now to protect our future. Women across the world are being hit hardest by climate change and have a key role to play in helping their families and communities adapt. We want a commitment to renewable energy in the UK which will lead the way for the rest of the world to follow, providing cleaner and safer options for households in poor countries."

Ashok Sinha, Director of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition said:
"Gordon Brown's decision on new coal-fired power plants could be a defining moment in the fight against climate change. If he jumps the right way and unlocks Britain's renewable potential, we could show the rest of the world that low carbon technologies are the answer to the inseparable challenges of climate change, poverty and energy security. The reality is that a thriving renewables industry would help us avoid disastrous climate change, create thousands of jobs and keep the lights on."

Paul Brannen, Christian Aid's Head of Campaigns, said:
"Christian Aid works with vulnerable communities in poor countries who are already bearing the brunt of the impact of climate change. Global cuts in carbon emissions are urgently needed to prevent the situation worsening. Building a new generation of high-emitting coal-fired power plants without the technology to capture and store CO2 from the outset will take us further down the path to climate catastrophe."

Contacts:
For further information and pictures please contact, Vicky Wyatt - 07801 212 970. Photos available from 12:00pm.

Footnotes:

  1. Press release Environment Audit Committee, 22nd July 2008 - www.parliament.uk/eacom
  2. Carbon, Capture and Storage, House of Commons, Environmental Audit Committee, 9th Report of 2007-08 P8

Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of the letter to Gordon Brown from the coalition can be downloaded here: 
    www.stopclimatechaos.org
  2. Stop Climate Chaos Coalition AGM:
    Members of the SCC coalition today holds its AGM in Rochester, Kent. Members will visit Kingsnorth coal station. The SCC Coalition is the largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact on the world’s poorest communities.
    With a combined membership of over 4 million we bring together over 70 organisations, from environment and development charities to unions, faith and women's groups, to demand political action in the UK to prevent global temperatures rising beyond the 2°C danger threshold.
  3. Today's Select Committee Announcement: 
    Environmental Audit Committee's report out today 'Carbon Capture and Storage' states "Replacing old coal-fired power stations with new ones, rather than using alternative energy sources, locks Britain into a high level of emissions for many years to come."
    The report states that "it is not clear when CCS will be available, or whether it will ever be available at all," and that the "possibility of CCS [technology] should not be used as a fig leave to give unabated coal-fired power stations an appearance of environmental acceptability".
    The Committee concluded that there was no guarantee that a plant approved on this basis would actually be willing or able to retrofit CCS once the technology had been demonstrated on a commercial scale. Without a deadline for the retrofitting of CCS, the Committee believes that planning permission granted on the condition of CCS readiness is meaningless. www.parliament.uk/eacom
  4. Other quotes from Stop Climate Chaos' board members:

    RSPB, Ruth Davis, Head of Climate Change Policy: 'Climate change is a potential disaster for birds and other wildlife, as well as for people. To avoid irreversible damage to precious ecosystems, we must make deep cuts in emissions over the next decade - and that means switching to clean forms of energy. There is no place in a modern, low-carbon economy for new coal fired power stations which don't capture and store their CO2.'

    Greenpeace, Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said:
    "Coal burning is the single biggest threat to our climate. If Brown gives the go ahead to a new fleet of coal plants he will signal his surrender on meeting his own climate change targets."
    "The technologies exist to generate huge amounts of energy without accelerating climate change. Just last month the government set out plans to generate 40% of Britain's electricity from renewables. With energy efficiency, renewable energy and using fossil fuels more efficiently in combined heat and power plants we can fight climate change and keep the lights on without destroying the climate".

    Tearfund
    "A new coal-plant completely flies in the face of the Government's commitment to tackle carbon emissions. People in the poorest countries are already being affected by a changing climate. An 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 is vital in keeping global temperature rise below two degrees. New power stations would make this almost impossible," said Tearfund's Advocacy Director Paul Cook.

    WWF-UK, Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK, said:
    "Gordon Brown says he wants to show world leadership on climate change, to move Britain to a low-carbon economy and to drive forward a renewable energy revolution. All of these goals will be jeopardised if his Government gives consent to the coal power station at Kingsnorth without insisting on full-scale carbon capture and storage from day one."

    Friends of the Earth, Director Andy Atkins said:
    "The Government must urgently wean itself off of its addiction to fossil fuels in order to tackle climate change and lead Britain to a greener future."
    "This means investing in a huge energy efficiency programme and safe, clean renewable energy - not a new generation of carbon-belching coal-fired power stations. Gordon Brown must pull the plug on this climate-wrecking power plant."

    Oxfam, Martin Kirk, Head of UK Campaigns, Oxfam GB said:
    "By making the right choices for UK energy policy, Mr Brown has a huge opportunity to cut domestic emissions drastically and lead by example in the global response to climate change. By resorting to coal to fuel Britain he will signal "business as usual" to China and the rest of the world, risking catastrophic climate change that is already impacting on the world's poorest people first and worst".

  5. Background:
    • E.ON estimates that the new plant at Kingsnorth will emit 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
    • If we have an 80% CO2 reduction target that will mean a 2050 emissions quota of 117.8mt/ CO2 per yr. The new generation of coal-fired stations would emit 56.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year, representing 48% of the new 2050 target.
    • As we close coal-fired and nuclear power stations in the next decade we will lose capacity currently providing around 35% of our electricity output. But Gordon Brown recently committed to targets which will require us to generate about 40% of our electricity from renewables alone by 2020.
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