Climate Chaos

I’m getting to know the Department of Energy and Climate Change pretty well, but two demonstrations outside there in a week was perhaps a little too much. The first on Monday evening was timed to try to influence the decision that Ed Miliband has to make on the building of a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth, following the end of a public consultation.

The decision, expected in the next couple of months, will give a clear indication of whether our government is serious about climate change or has bowed to the intense lobbying and financial clout of the energy industry. We don’t need Kingsnorth, and an alternative programme of investment in wind power has long term advantages as well as avoiding “climate-wrecking dirty coal power.” Nobody seriously believes that we will get 100% carbon capture and storage – or that it would in any case be a serious long term solution; all the technical solutions exist for wind power as a major power source for the UK (and for its export potential. Perhaps even more seriously, if the plant is built it is very hard to believe it would not be used even if, as seems likely, only marginal carbon removal proved economic.

Organising the demonstration were the Climate Chaos Coalition (CCC) representing virtually all the major environmentally concerned groups in the UK, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Campaign Against Climate Change, as well as faith groups, aid agencies and many others – a total of over 100 organisations with a total membership of more than 11 million. There are probably few other organisations that unite the RSPB, the World Development Movement, Unison and Viva!

Christian Aid provided a choir in white surplices (and with one in a cardinal’s bright red)  and tambourines which livened the proceedings considerably but the big surprise was when Ed Miliband came out of the ministry to talk to the demonstration and answer some very aggressive questioning.   I took a few pictures from one side as he leaned over into the pen, shaking hands, but obviously the best place would be in front of him, in with the demonstrators. So I ran around to the back and made my way inside. It was a very crowded area, but I soon changed to a 12-24mm lens which let me work in the confined space.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Ed bites his lip, his aide tears her hair

I was sorry I’d only brought a single body, as it was so crowded it was hard to change lenses, and I knew Miliband would not stay long and wanted to make the most of it so anyway didn’t want to waste more time with lens changes.  12mm is really too wide to be useful and I would have liked something a little longer than 24mm, perhaps something like a 17-35mm would have been ideal.  The 24-70mm just wasn’t wide enough most of the time.

Fortunately the other photographers present and the video guys didn’t follow my lead as there really wasn’t room for me let alone others there.  It was yet another story that made the front page on Demotix and I also put it on Indymedia,  but found no other takers. You can read the story and see rather more pictures on My London Diary.

Thursday evening I was back more or less in the same place – the pen was on the opposite side of Whitehall Place for the  Vestas  ‘Day of Action for Jobs and the Planet’ demonstration there organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change, with speakers including John McDonnell, MP, Darren Johnson, Green Party spokesman on trade and industry and chair of the London Assembly, trade union organisers and Mark Flowers, one of the sacked Vestas workers.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Darren Johnson, Mark Flowers and John McDonnell

The other acid test of the Government’s seriousness over climate change is of course their reaction to the closure of Vestas Blades. Unfortunately they have completely failed rather than take the opportunity of setting up a vital UK industry in the manufacture of wind turbines that could be important both in meeting our energy needs and investing in green technology with great future opportunities for export of both electricity and plant.

More on My London Diary.

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