Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.


We need to reclaim the power, now more than ever

Kara Moses explains the issues behind the upcoming Reclaim the Power climate action camp at Didcot power station

May 22, 2015
6 min read

Kara MosesKara Moses is Red Pepper's Environment Editor and a freelance writer and activist

  share     tweet  

RTP_Didcot-flyer-2015For many who believe in equality, justice, and peace, the re-election of the Tory government brought horror, dismay, even fear – fear of what misery another four years of Conservative rule could bring, from cuts and privatisation to attacks on our basic rights.

Another important issue on the list should be that this is a government in bed with the fossil fuel industry, who now think they have free reign to push full steam ahead with fracking and other fossil fuels, helping out their industry friends while thousands die of fuel poverty each winter.

Meanwhile the UN climate talks in Paris this December loom on the horizon, with no meaningful action in sight and a corporate stranglehold choking the process for private profit. This is not what democracy looks like. This is what a broken system looks like.

It doesn’t have to be this way

We don’t have to rely on people in power to make the changes we want for us. We can take action now. Direct action has brought about some of the biggest progressive changes in society – women’s suffrage, the abolition of slavery, civil rights for all. It’s the best tool we’ve got, it’s empowering, meaningful, transformative and fun. And there’s a big opportunity coming up to take mass action together.

This month, Reclaim the Power returns with its third mass action camp, as part of an international weekend of climate action that’s happening across the world.

The summer of 2013 saw thousands descend on Balcombe, where Cuadrilla’s fracking operations were shut down for six days. Last summer, thirteen nationwide actions sprung from the camp on a proposed fracking site in Blackpool, including activists superglueing themselves to Defra’s headquarters, occupying Cuadrilla’s Blackpool office, blockading iGas’ London headquarters, and shutting down a fracking site near Hull.

In previous years, Reclaim the Power has responded to calls for support from communities on the frontline of fracking. Why are we at Didcot power station this year? And why now, in the spring?

Rather than being the sole target of this year’s actions, the Didcot plant provides a symbolic backdrop for nationwide action against fossil fuels and corporate power, symbolising many of the issues we want to respond to, on an international day of action against the corporate capture of the UN climate negotiations.

The complex political landscape of 2015 includes a new Tory government pushing ahead with the dash for gas, the possibility of fracking going live in Lancashire in the summer, coal still not being off the table, and the UN climate negotiations. Didcot stands as a half-demolished monument to the unfinished job of kicking dirty coal out, the government’s misguided dash for gas and fracking fixation, and the corrupting influence of corporate power on our democratic processes.

Dirty, unsafe and expensive

The coal-fired section of Didcot was demolished last year after becoming unprofitable due to EU anti-pollution legislation. But aggressive lobbying by companies like RWE Npower, which owns Didcot, is weakening the legislation and keeping coal in the mix. We need to get rid of coal.

The gas-fired section of Didcot still stands, and in December RWE Npower will decide its fate. We need to get rid of gas. It’s not the clean, green solution the government’s spin would have you believe. Gas, including fracked shale gas, is dirty, expensive and pushing us further into climate chaos and fuel poverty, just like other fossil fuels.

More fossil fuels might help Npower make £766 million in profit in three years – while paying no corporation tax – but meanwhile 10,000 people die each year from cold-related illnesses. Last year 15,000 people died from fuel poverty, up 77 per cent from the previous year.

Corporate lobbying

RWE Npower and other corporate lobbyists are also lobbying to weaken emissions controls and prevent a global climate deal. RWE Npower is one of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies who control the UK’s energy supply – and lobby the government to extend the life of dirty power stations. It is one of Europe’s biggest fossil fuel polluters, and owns a huge open cast coal mine in Germany – the single biggest source of CO2 emissions in Europe. Yet they’ve been chosen to help represent the UK government in EU decision-making on reducing carbon emissions in Paris this December.

In countries like Germany, the big energy companies have been undermined by flourishing community-owned energy projects. The Big Six energy companies in the UK are lobbying aggressively to avoid a similar situation occurring here, pushing for public money to prop them up regardless of whether their energy is even used. Worldwide, fossil fuels receive £6 million every minute in subsidies, greater than the total health spending of all of the world’s governments.

At the key climate talks in Paris this year we know that RWE Npower will put their profits first – regardless of the cost to us – and we can’t afford to let that happen. This year’s camp is part of an international weekend of action that’s taking on corporate power all over the world; together we will show that we’re not prepared to let the fossil fuel industry continue with their stranglehold on the climate talks.

Who has the power?

We need to transition to community-owned renewables for clean, democratic, safe and affordable energy – but the government, RWE Npower and the rest of the Big Six are holding us back.

The myths about renewable energy not being able to produce enough power to keep the lights on is not true, and evidence-based research proves it. We can drastically reduce the amount of energy we use, through insulation, greater efficiency, better transport and healthier diets and land use. This would create more jobs and healthier communities at the same time.

When the gas-fired section of Didcot power station caught fire last October, the lights didn’t go out. Why? Because wind energy picked up the slack. Just like Balcombe, who now have a community owned renewable energy project up and running after the threat of fracking in their community was met with mass protest, the Didcot community could be a flagship for communities reclaiming their energy and their power. We hope to work with the local community to envision what their future could look like once RWE Npower has packed up and left.

It’s clear that if we want to change the way we power our lives, we need to change who has power over our lives. This isn’t just about energy. This is about democracy. This is about equality, and the ongoing struggle for social, economic and climate justice. This is about people’s lives – the people with flooded homes, the people dying from fuel poverty each winter, or from drought and extreme weather events.

This is about power – and the time to reclaim our power is now. See you at Didcot.

The camp is from 29 May to 2 June. For more information see

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Kara MosesKara Moses is Red Pepper's Environment Editor and a freelance writer and activist

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced