UK’s largest power station hit by simultaneous protests at AGM in London and in Yorkshire, protesters demanding an end to subsidies

axedrax2 yourkshire1For immediate release

London, 20th April 2016 – Environmental and human rights activists have gathered in London today for a colourful protest organised by Biofuelwatch [1] and Coal Action Network. [2] The protest targeted the AGM of Drax PLC, whose power station in Yorkshire burns more coal than any other in the UK, and more wood than any other plant in the world. [3] At the same time, activists targeted Drax in Yorkshire, with a protest at the power station itself. [4]

The protesters are calling for an end to Drax’s subsidies. Last year the power station received £1.1 million in subsidies every single day, even though wood-burning at Drax is linked to high carbon emissions and to the destruction of highly biodiverse wetland forests in the southern US. Burning wood also enables Drax to continue burning millions of tonnes of coal a year. Drax’s operators say that they will stop burning coal, but only with a massive increase in subsidies, to at least £3.4 million per day. [5]

In a street theatre performance in London, the demonstrators ‘axed’ a ‘Draxosaurus’, symbolising an end to the subsidies that Drax is dependent on. A speaker from Colombia, trade unionist Luis Serna, denounced Drax’s burning of coal from Colombian opencast mines, which are linked to human rights abuses and severe environmental pollution. Other speakers from London Mining Network, Biofuelwatch and Coal Action Network highlighted the severe environmental destruction caused by both biomass and coal burning at Drax.

Speaking from the AGM protest in London, Biofuelwatch campaigner Duncan Law Biofuelwatch said: “DECC are calling biomass burning in power stations like Drax a ‘transition technology’, and a closer look at Drax’s strongly suggests that the power station’s lifespan is indeed limited. But the impacts of the logging in the US, which is feeding Drax today, will be long-lasting, if not permanent. Precious wetland forests, once they have been cut down, may never recover. Plant and animal species at home in these forests are being driven closer to the brink of extinction.”

In Yorkshire, protesters from People and Planet Sheffield held a large “Axe Drax” banner in front of the power station’s giant cooling towers. Eliza Rea-Miotto stated: “When it is so clear that true renewables are the key to an environmentally sustainable future, it is heartbreaking to see mass environmental destruction carried out in the name of ‘renewable energy’. Today we stand together to demand an end to huge government subsidy of Drax’s biomass burning, and to demand a cleaner future of energy generation.”

Earlier in the morning, campaigners in London handed a briefing [6] to shareholders going into the Drax AGM, urging them to divest from the company. Several Biofuelwatch supporters have also been asking questions inside the AGM, challenging claims that the company’s wood burning is ‘sustainable’ and ‘low-carbon’.

At 2pm, Biofuelwatch and Coal Action Network supporters will be going to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to hand over a petition calling for an urgent end to Drax’s subsidies [7] The petition, which has been hosted by Care2.com, has been signed by over 80,000 people.

Anne Harris from Coal Action Network, also at the protest in London, said: “Government claims about phasing out coal in the UK ring hollow whilst a massive coal-and-wood burning power station like Drax is being kept alive with subsidies. People in Russia, Colombia, the US and the UK are seeing their environment and in many cases their livelihoods and communities destroyed for coal that is feeding this dinosaur of a power station.”

Photos:
Available here: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2016/axedrax-2016-photos/
Please email biofuelwatch@ymail.com for additional photos, more will be added to the webpage throughout the day. Further photos and updates can be found on Twitter: #AxeDrax

Contacts:
Biofuelwatch: Louise Somerville Williams (07762 557184) & Duncan Law (07940 24 99 10)
Coal Action Network: Anne Harris (07876 532 846)
People and Planet Sheffield: 07852681355 or 07792677281

Notes:
[1] Biofuelwatch (www.biofuelwatch.org.uk) campaigns against large-scale industrial bioenergy and researches and raises awareness of bioenergy impacts on climate, forests and public health.
[2] Coal Action Network (http://coalaction.org.uk/) is a UK-based organisation that offers direct support to communities opposing opencast coal mines. In addition, it campaigns in the UK to support communities impacted by coal mining internationally.
[3] According to Drax’s 2015 Annual Report (http://www.drax.com/media/66479/24293_drax_ar15_web_v2.pdf) the company burned 6 million tonnes of wood pellets that year. One tonne of wood pellets requires two tonnes of freshly harvested, i.e. green wood. Total annual UK wood production is 11 million tonnes (http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-7aqdgc).
[4] Press release specifically on Yorkshire protest: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2016/drax-yorkshire-pr/
[5] Drax told the Financial Times on the eve of today’s AGM (www.ft.com/cms/s/2148daa2-05a4-11e6-9b51-0fb5e65703ce,Authorised=false.html?siteedition=uk&_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F2148daa2-05a4-11e6-9b51-0fb5e65703ce.html%3Fsiteedition%3Duk&_i_referer=&classification=conditional_standard&iab=barrier-app#axzz46IwtEPu0) that they would end coal burning if they got subsidies for another three unit conversions. This would at a minimum amount to another £600 million every year, on top of what they are receiving now.
[6] http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2016/drax-investors-briefing/
[7] http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/630/637/771/end-subsidies-for-drax-power-station-in-the-uk/

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