Protesters target Green Bank Annual Review over dirty investments

Biofuelwatch media release – for immediate use Wednesday 25th June

Protesters target Green Bank Annual Review over dirty investments

Photographs available here: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2014/london-gib-photos/

Environmental groups [1] staged a protest at the first of two Green Investment Bank (GIB) Annual Review events in London this morning. Campaigners criticised the GIB for investing almost £200 million into “dirty” energy projects this year, including biomass power stations and waste incinerators. Local residents and members of the Avonmouth Coalition Against Big Biofuels also presented GIB Chairman Lord Smith with an open letter [2] highlighting fears over GIB finance for a deeply unpopular biomass power station, which will require some 1 million tonnes of imported wood each year.

Despite being set up to finance low-carbon projects, protest organisers say that alarming sums of money have been given to both large-scale biomass plants and waste incinerators, including a substantial loan to Drax power station. [3] The Green Bank has been accused of fuelling forest destruction in North America, as well as increasing air pollution and carbon emissions in the UK through its loans to power station developers. [4]

“So far the Green Bank has given millions to big biomass and waste incineration plants – power stations that by their very nature burn carbon and release it into the atmosphere.” said Oliver Munnion, Biofuelwatch co-Director. “The GIB’s first big loan was to the UK’s most polluting power station, Drax, and can be directly linked to the destruction of wetland forests in the southern US. It is unacceptable that dirty energy is being financed in the name of reducing carbon emissions.”

Campaigners have set out a number of demands which they are asking the Green Bank to commit to at its Annual Reviews. The demands include revoking its loan to Drax in light of evidence of forest destruction, a commitment to not finance four big biomass power stations [5] – two in the south of England and two in Scotland – and a commitment to end finance for waste incinerators, many of which are strongly opposed locally on air pollution grounds.

Liz Snook is a member of action group Avonmouth Coalition Against Big Biofuels, who are opposing a 100MW Helius Energy biomass power station near Bristol. She said: “The City Mayor is lobbying to try and stop industrial biomass in the region, angry local residents have been out on the streets 3 times in the last few weeks, and environmental activists have promised more port invasions and direct action if funding is granted. The Green Investment bank needs to understand that if they fund biomass in the region we will make an international embarrassment of them whilst Bristol is European Green Capital 2015.”

A second protest will take place tomorrow in Edinburgh [6] at another GIB Annual Review event. Last week, a cross-party group of MSPs, environmental organisations and local campaigners presented the GIB with an open letter highlighting possible GIB role in finance for two large-scale biomass power stations in Scotland, and demanding that the bank revokes its Drax loan. [7]

ENDS

Media contact:

Oliver Munnion, Biofuelwatch Co-Director & Communications Officer

oli.munnion@biofuelwatch.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

[1] Biofuelwatch & UK Without Incineration Network organised the protest. Biofuelwatch is a not-for-profit grassroots organisation set up to raise awareness of the negative impacts of industrial biofuels and bioenergy http://biofuelwatch.org.uk/.

[2] http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2014/open-letter-2/

[3] Since the Green Bank’s last Annual Review, £98m has been loaned to biomass or projects including biomass (not including biogas, or the Drax PLC loan of 2012). £91m went to three waste incinerators, although Norfolk County Council has since pulled out of its contract for one of them. The largest waste incinerator loan was promised to the proposed Willow’s Incinerator in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, which was rejected by 92% of voters in a referendum in 2011. It has not so far been granted planning permission and the local authority have withdrawn their waste contract for it.

Another went to a large planned incinerator in Wilton, Teesside and a third to the planned Severnside Incinerator in Avonmouth, near Bristol. Avonmouth residents are already facing high levels of industrial air pollution, noise, dust pollution and currently a fly infestation caused by another waste company. The Severnside Incinerator was refused by the local authority and only approved on Appeal.

[4] For more background on the Green Bank and Drax issues, please see: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/alerts/banking-on-big-biomass/

[5] In the south of England, Helius Energy is looking for finance for two big biomass power stations in Avonmouth & Southampton. In Scotland, two more consented big biomass plants in Grangemouth & Rosyth would be greatly helped by Green Bank loans. The Avonmouth and Grangemouth plants have been linked with the Green Bank already. All four of the plants would rely on imported wood from North America, where ancient forests have been cleared for the pellet industry.

[6] Thursday 26 June 2014 8:30-9:30am, Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, EH2 2LR

[7] http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2014/gib-open-letter/

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