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.
Labour's 1983 election campaign has long been used to say it is impossible for a leader like Jeremy Corbyn to win any election from the left. Alex Nunns digs out the truth
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
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