A smiling child gazes up into lush green foliage; boats float in a tranquil harbour; a couple stand by a gate in a misty, magical landscape. These are some of the images that greet you when you visit the website of E On UK, ‘Britain’s leading energy company’. The gentle giant provides energy for homes and schools, and more – scroll down and the issues covered range from community volunteering to E On’s investment in renewable energy.
Moreover, E On is taking the threat of climate change seriously, as the main sponsor of the Guardian’s ‘climate change summit’, where it will convene a session examining ‘the role of energy companies in finding effective ways to deliver the transition to secure, affordable and low-carbon energy’.
More specifically, the website describes E On’s new ‘clean coal’ power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, which will replace existing plant and employ ‘supercritical technology’ to make it 20 per cent more efficient. To top it all, it will be built with the capacity to retrofit carbon capture and storage (CCS), a new technology designed to reduce emissions still further.
E On, it seems, is trying very hard. So hard that it has recently hired Edelman, a world leader in the public relations field and the self-proclaimed inventor of ‘environmental PR’. The threat? The Camp for Climate Action, which will be coming to Kingsnorth this August. E On says it respects the right to protest, and just wants to be able to operate and provide power for its customers’ homes and businesses.
Seems reasonable enough? Let’s look beyond the greenwash.
Kingsnorth is a coal-fired power station. Coal may pose ‘the greatest threat to the climate’, according to James Hansen, NASA scientist, but as a source of power generation it is very cheap. And there’s plenty of it, at least for the time being. So, as E On is firmly committed to maximising profits for its shareholders, it is firmly committed to coal. Which doesn’t really square with a ‘low-carbon’ goal.
E On UK is part of the German-based E On group, which has at least eight new coal-fired power stations planned in Europe and one in the US in the next five years. This energy giant prides itself on working towards ‘vertical integration’ – gaining control of the entire supply chain – and its portfolio covers coal, oil, gas, nuclear and renewable energy.
E On generates around 10 per cent of our electricity in the UK. Of that, for all the talk, renewables weigh in at a paltry 2 per cent, while coal accounts for a massive 61 per cent. E On has three coal-fired power stations including Kingsnorth, and their combined generation is greater than any other UK company’s.
Since the winding down of the UK coal industry in the 1980s, the coal-fired stations built in the 1960s and 1970s have been ticking over. However, EU legislation limiting emissions means that most will have to close. It is this, rather than any aspiration to be environmentally responsible, that is driving the wave of seven proposed new coal-fired power stations in the UK. These will ensure that coal is burned for the next 50 years at least. The new plant at Kingsnorth will produce eight million tonnes of CO2 per year. ‘Clean coal’ is a contradiction in terms.
Then we come to the big red herring that is CCS – an as yet unproven technology whereby CO2 is sequestered and stored away. Even if it turns out to be technically feasible, it will be costly and, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is unlikely to be commercially viable for decades – far too late to have any impact on climate change. But this hasn’t stopped E On and companies like it from using CCS as a justification for new coal-fired power power stations such as at Kingsnorth.
The alternatives are clear. If, as the government states, the UK is set to become a world-leader in technologies such as wind and wave power, the coal industry is ripe for what is known as a ‘just transition’ to green-collar jobs. The German environmental engineering sector has generated some 250,000 jobs in the past four years, a figure that dwarfs the 5,600 in UK coal.
The revitalisation of the coal industry is a path the government and energy companies shouldn’t even be thinking of treading in the face of climate change. It is up to us to stand squarely in the way.
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.