These are heady days to be a climate campaigner in the UK. Hot on the heels of E.ON’s announcement that they’ve postponed (hopefully indefinitely) their deeply unpopular plan to build a new coal power station at Kingsnorth, yesterday we heard that airport operator BAA has thrown in the towel on its dastardly scheme to build a third runway at Heathrow. Both of these have been targets for sustained campaigns of lobbying and direct action by the climate camp and many others.
As 55 Greenpeace activists occupied the roof of the Houses of Parliament yesterday afternoon to greet returning MPs with the demand for policies that will save the planet (31 of them are still up there), I joked with friends about what amazing piece of news we were going to get this week.
In fact, it’s happened already: it’s just been announced that one of the major partners in plans to build a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston in Ayrshire, Scotland, has withrawn, seriously scuppering it, at least in the short term. The fact that the company in question is called Dong is provoking no end of puns on Facebook and Twitter (‘Dong pulls out of shafting the planet’ etc etc).
We’re not used to this feeling - that things are actually going in the right direction for once. We keep looking for excuses to dampen down this unexpected, unfamiliar sensation of hope - ‘well, it’s just a response to the recession’, ‘it’s all part of the Tory party’s election gameplan’, or ‘it’s some kind of clever ploy to put us off the scent’.
There’s probably more than a grain of truth in all these explanations. But they are not sufficient, and shouldn’t distract us from the bigger picture. The demise of these monstrous carbon-intensive infrastructure projects is also an indication of the demise of business as usual - and climate campaigners have undeniably played a pivotal part in changing that context.
So what next, I’m wondering? Will BP pull out of Canada’s Tar Sands? Will rich governments drop their opposition to deep and binding emissions cuts in Copenhagen? Will the international carbon trading system collapse under the weight of its own corrupt ineffectiveness? We’ll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue savouring this elusive feeling that we might not all be doomed. Ding Dong!