This morning, 22 activists occupied Didcot coal power station - the carbon belching monster just down the road from the NI Oxford office. Word has only just started trickling out, but I managed to have a quick phone chat with Amy Johnson, one of the protesters.
‘Where are you?’ I asked. ‘I’m on the upper-most inside level of Didcot’s chimney’ she replied. ‘There are 9 of us climbing the chimney, and 13 people locked to the coal conveyor belt.’
‘How did you get in?’
‘At 4am, we cycled to the power station, cycled around the barrier and just got in!’ There was a bit of a confrontation with security guards, but they didn’t follow them up the chimney. They are now busy barricading themselves in, hanging banners, and starting to answer media calls. They have supplies for the rest of the week.
So: why exactly are they doing this?
‘Well, we just had a massive victory - E.ON announced they probably weren’t going to build Kingsnorth. That means that N-Power, the company that runs this power station, is now the foremost advocate for new coal in the country. They want to build 30 new coal power stations in Britain and Europe. They expect to get planning permission for Hunterston in the next few weeks. We’re saying to them that we won’t leave until they cancel all their plans for new coal.’
But this isn’t just about UK politics. Their banner reads ‘Climate Justice’ and, as we hurtle towards the Copenhagen climate summit, ‘our message is aimed at the whole world,’ says Amy: ‘Coal cannot be the future.’
Are they affiliated with any particular organisation? ‘Not really. We’re a group of people who met at climate camp in London this summer. We learnt about the threat of coal, and were able to attend training sessions run by really experienced activists who gave us the skills and inspiration to do this.’
This is the latest - and most audacious - of a spate of recent direct actions against coal power in the UK. Now all eyes are on N-Power to see how they react…