30 November 2010 Nottingham Crown Court
Snowing much today, resulting a couple of jury members being late to court. We eventually start after a couple of hours delay.
Edward Rees QC for the defence calls another defendant to the witness box. Mr SC.
After introductions he reminds us of the prosecutions remark yesterday Miss Gerry “suggested that the money that was spent on the action would have been better off hiring Cheryl Cole to model second hand fashions”. SC standing in the witness box and looking quite dapper, he says that his tweed suit and all his cloths were in fact purchased from second hard charity shops.
SC has worked as an freelance environmental researcher for the last 10 years. He had also been on the Greenpeace employed staff for 2 years. He has a degree in Applied Biology. Additionally, he has served as a Parish Counsellor in Bradwell in the Peak District, Derbyshire for 4 years. He has been speaking on environmental issues to schools and public meetings. To Mr Rees’ surprise he says he also had organised tree planting weekends. Explaining, he said Treesponsibility provided a hands-on community involvement to take practical action on an environment matter. Trees help bind soil and help prevent erosion and assist in minimising flooding. There are intense pressures on the Peak District, with the volume of visitors and had worked on public transport issues there.
While working with Greenpeace, during 4 -5 years, he had been concerned with and researched energy generation employing different fuels and supplies to the National Grid. Mr Rees asks, what do you conclude from your research? SC says that he believes that we are close to a number of the tipping points that Dr Hansen had described yesterday, accelerating climate changes. The consequences? Well unless we take measures to reduce CO2 emissions we will reach such tipping points.
SC says having been at the very first COP in Berlin in 1995 [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. All conferences were doing was people simply engaging in an ‘on-going process’ without end. Moving onto Kyoto, there were no binding agreements achieved and did not include USA and China. President Bush would not ratify any such agreements. SC says that unless big emitters like the USA etc join in, then all efforts will fail to achieve any of the required effects. From Kyoto to Copenhagen, he explained that his experience of the COP process had left him disillusioned with its effectiveness, and how when the Ratcliffe occupation had been planned in the run up to the Copenhagen summit, the activists already had a very pessimistic outlook on the likelihood of it achieving much. This pessimism was unfortunately proven to be well-placed.
We are now at the point with a conference meeting again at Cancum, Mexico. But politics remains impotent. With such intransigent s, nothing is going to happen at least for another 2 years to the next presidential election
When Mr Rees asked why he had attempted to shut the station down. He responded, “to achieve the largest savings in emissions that we physically could”. He referred to the Stern review figure of the damage of one tonne of carbon at £50 and that therefore if they managed to stop 150,000 tonnes of carbon, it would amount to savings of £7.5 million. He didn’t see what else he could do to effect this much of a saving. 150,000 toms might not be much when compared globally, but it is a significant amount none the less.
Mr Rees turns to the police raid on the Iona School. SC saying that even though on their arrival, the police were offered access and keys, they continued to batter at outside and the inside doors causing damage. He had earlier given a briefing to the groups, reassuring them that the action will have little effect on the total grid. The lights will remain on.
The plan was to split into groups. He describes the operation of the coal conveyors, taking coal to the plants for crushing and pulverising and onto its storage in hoppers. There is held there about 6 – 8 hours of coal burning capacity. This would therefore allow for the controlled shutdown of the plant ,rather than having it bought to a crashing stop. There was no intention to do that.
The conveyors were to be stopped and people would be locked onto the equipment using the tubes. Climbers would also mount plant. Another group would also have gone to the control room to explain the action to staff. All groups would have the relevant safety equipment, hard hats, hi-vis vests and the rest, and all had received an appropriate safety briefing.
After court returned from lunch, Mr Rees asks SC about what it means that the Ratcliffe Power Station had a ‘black start’ capacity. That it had a small power station adjacent to start the main station in the event of a complete failure of the National Grid.
Cross-examining, Miss Gerry asks if closed down the station, would that not have an influence on the grid? A minor loss in scale, the light would remain on. If that was the case, Miss Gerry suggests that it would not have saved the 150,000 tons claimed. All that would happen would that another station would be fired up to replace lost generation, also creating yet more emissions. SC claimed that it would be reasonable to expect the replacing stations to be gas fired, since as coal would be cheaper in generation, those stations would already be running.
Moving onto the press release, Miss Gerry keeps trying to suggest that shutting down a ‘black start’ facility was alarming to the public if they had known about it. This was not mentioned in the press release. SC says there are many other such stations, so grid security was maintained.
When the police arrested and questioned you, why not tell them more of your motives and background that you have told us today? He says we had all received legal briefing to make ‘no comment’ to questions in interview.
Gerry then refers to SC previous experience with campaigning about open cast coal mining. She implies this was a model of reasonable behaviour in public engagement on an issue. But, that this Ratcliffe action was conducted in secret and certainly wasn’t reasonable.
With more snow falling outside and travel chaos assured … the court rises early
The case continues a bit more …….. etc
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change
Ratcliffe on Trial Blog http://ratcliffeontrial.org/blog
Onwards … >
At 11.00am barrister, Mr Edward Rees QC opens the case for the defence. He calls the first witness, one of the defendants SS.
She has been employed by Greenpeace for 8 years, although, this was not an ‘official’ Greenpeace action. In fact she took a short holiday in order to do it. Money had been raised by an assortment of donations. She said that her attitudes about climate change had developed over the last 10 years but her involvement with Greenpeace and other influences. She sited a pamphlet she remembered reading in 2001 titled ‘Millions at Risk’ that was one of her first awakenings about the nature of the likely consequences of climate change.
SS mentions Dr. James Hansen as another influence and an earlier publication ‘Climate Change and Trace Gases’ as impressing on the need for change.
She says she was part of a team that presented climate change issues to political party conferences, sometimes including the head of the Meteorological Office.
For her, there is little doubt that there is a link between different amounts of carbon in the atmosphere and the resultant climatic changes. Another work sited to illustrate these concerns: Mark Lynas – Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.
Mr Rees asks her, what are climate changes causes?
The emitting of far to much CO2 by burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution. Coal IS the biggest contributor to these changes and the most polluting. The resulting CO2 causes changes in the composition of the atmosphere. Interacting with the CO2, the suns rays then create a ‘greenhouse effect’ as more heat is absorbed.
SS goes on to explain the additional concern of ‘tipping points’. These are thresholds beyond which climate change spirals out of control. Instead of linear relationships, conditions change beyond predictions and control. Reductions in carbon emissions are thus required now. We could be within 10 years of tipping points being reached before irreversibility. Within the 8 years with Greenpeace as a climate campaign assistant, she has been a political advisor to politicians of all parties. Greenpeace however is non-political and supports no particular parties.
She goes onto to explain meeting with groups like the Environmental Audit Committee and party conferences. Mr Rees is showing that SS had engaged in the political process and not engaged in the ‘bit of the jolly’ the prosecution were trying to suggest. SS had previously met with environment ministers, Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor. Members of the European Parliament MEP’s in meetings about European Environmental Targets, and the attempts to influence politicians to engage in CO2 limiting processes. But as far as she could see, little change was affected. She now works as a forest campaigner dealing with issues of de-forestation.
Mr Rees asks what has that got to do with climate change? Forests by absorbing CO2 assist in keeping the balance. Forest burning contributes to CO2 emissions and a ‘domino effect’ is brought about. Trees store and absorb carbon, thus less trees = less CO2 absorbed. Half of all species in the world are to be found in the Amazon. Effects of climate changes would be unknown in the region.
SS says she is also aware of frightening projections in the reduced scale of the ice caps, perhaps in her lifetime. Again, there is a potential tipping point. The ice will thus reflect less heat. The resultant ‘darker oceans’ will absorb more heat, accelerating the process of further melting. The consequences are unknown, of the excessive heating of the oceans. The collective processes are leading to organisms ‘soaking up’ less carbon.
Climate change is leading to an increase in flooding worldwide. She has had some personal experience of this. The burning of coal and the resulting carbon emitted is causally linked to this increase in flooding. It is an alarming prospect and it is necessary to think about alternatives like, wind and solar power.
E-on are burning coal because it’s cheaper. When dealing with politicians she is very pessimistic about their political will to bring about the required changes. Going on to the Kyoto Treaty, the international agreement to limit greenhouse gases., she points out that it has not bought about the required restrictions. With limited ratifications, the USA had watered down meaningful requirements and politicians remained intransient. SS says this had made her very pessimistic about the ability of politicians to affect change. On to the Copenhagen Conference, there is still no optimism in setting target or agreements of the required changes that are needed.
The proposed Ratcliffe action occurred before Copenhagen but she was aware of limitations on the build up to the Conference. Of course the conference didn’t result in any agreement on targets. To this day, this remains the case. She says politics is clearly hopeless in bringing about changes and she remains pessimistic about bring about the required changes by political argument. Politicians are ‘carrying on’ without view to the consequences.
Thus, she takes direct action. She did so to save 150,000 tons in carbon, that Ratcliffe emits a week. Every ton counts towards effects and deaths. Thus stopping emission even for this short time, will saves lives, species, flooding, peoples’ livelihoods and property. Dealing with the proposed action, SS was part of the planning. Since Mid January 2009 to their arrest in April planning continued with the associated timeline. Later, she gives a briefing at the Iona School, in the legal system and advice on arrest. This is based on the Climate Camp ‘bust card’ with advice to remain silent on questioning. The defendants followed this advice.
On the day, people were to split into groups, some would lock onto the coal conveyors, some to climb a chimney. Entrance was to be achieved by simply driving through the front gate, only minimal opposition was to be expected since this would have been on the Bank Holiday weekend.
The Black team were to head for the conveyor, press the emergency stop button and occupy that plant.
Green team would climb a chimney, SS said she was part of that team. The object was to prevent the re-starting of the station. She said her main object was to stop emissions but realised there would be press interest and would make the most of it.
Orange group to occupy the gates.
Silver group to surround the chimney.
Gold group to go to the control room and to explain action to staff. With a view to advising on safety measures.
Mr Rees takes her back to the school and the police action. The police broke in casing the damage previously described to the school. Those present caused none of the resulting damage. Police would not let supporting groups back into the school to clean up after events. Preferring that the owners claimed on the insurance, adding to the costs of the operation of course.
Miss Felicity Gerry for the prosecution starts her cross examination. Confirming SS was involved in elements of the planning of the operations. Agreeing she was and confirming she was conspiring to close down the power station. Gerry seeks to divide the defendants into ‘chiefs and indians’ but this wasn’t accepted.
Miss Gerry went on to the ‘Ecological Show Stoppers’ Leaflet. This document was a complete sham. A cover to assemble the group. Just going to a workshop if challenged. Some people knew what they were going to without specifics, others were curious.
The prosecution tries to suggest no carbon would in fact be saved ! SS replies that if they had been successful a gas-fired station might have been started instead with less CO2 resulting. The object was also to highlight the proposed construction of the Kingsnorth Station. But the reason for going to Ratcliffe was because it was owned by E-on and the second largest emitter of CO2 in the UK.
Miss Gerry then goes on to highlight efforts that people made in hiding laptops, sim cards phones etc, and trying to flush materials down the toilet. Defendants did all this because they knew their action were unreasonable.. Legal briefings were necessary because they knew they were committing a crime. SS responds that there is a difference between trespassing as against the crimes against the lives and conditions of millions of people.
Attempts to say activists were on the fringes of society and actions can result in disengaging the public. By taking such direct action, there is a risk of loosing public support for an issue. She seeks to marginalise their efforts.
The prosecution returns to criticising the defences argument of an existing ‘democratic deficit’. Miss Gerry suggests all are remiss in not taking every opportunity in engaging with the public in argument in a variety of groupings.
The prosecution then went on to suggest a bizarre list of ways that the activists could better have spent their time.
• Woman’s Institute
• Scout Groups
• Police Federation
• Trade Unions
• Conservative Party meetings
• Canvasing for politicians
• Bingo Halls
Establishing her own credentials Miss Gerry does this by letting the jury know that she bought second hand clothes and had a compost toilet, before the judge told her that her personal life wasn’t relevant to the court case.
She cited Paul McCartney and Coldplay’s Chris Martin as examples of effective environmentalism, through their involvement with ‘Meat Free Mondays’. Instead of closing down power stations, she suggested that the defendants would be better off searching for celebrity endorsements for the likes of ‘Turn-off Tuesdays” or “Switch-Off Sundays.” Finally, she suggested that the money that was spent on the action would have been better off hiring Cheryl Cole to model second hand fashions!!!!!!!
SS does agree that people do need to take individual action in their own lives. But this is simply note enough, next to the size of the issues / problems.
For the defence, Mr Rees again get SS to reiterate the scale and magnitude of the required changes. That celebrity endorsement and action that people , just as individuals can make is not enough.
Witness SS stands down and court retires till after lunch.
IPCC Report: Millions At Risk Of Hunger And Water Stress In Asia Unless Global Greenhouse Emissions Cut
James Hansen – National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Mark Lynas – Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
From Cancún to Copenhagen: A year in climate change : As delegates from around the world descend on Cancún, Mexico, we reflect on 12 months of climate talks
In the afternoon, the defence calls Dr. James E. Hansen, Head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA’s Goddard Institute. Mr Rees takes the jury through his large number of accolades and his experience since 1977. He advised the Climate Task Force during the Bush administration on the role of humans in accelerating climate changes.
He published work titled ‘Storm of my Grandchildren’, Mr Rees asks about the reference to grandchildren? It takes decades for full effects of any changes to take place. But it’s put to him you can’t predict the weather a week ahead in Nottingham, so how on earth can we predict these climate effects decades ahead.
There are trends. For the planet to be in equilibrium, energy radiating would be equal to the energy received. Human processes have been upsetting this balance. CO2, methane and other gases absorb infra-red. There is little effect on the radiation coming in but it does prevent heat leaving at the same rate, acting like a blanket around the earth. That all is getting warmer, there is no significant challenge to these concepts.
Additionally, there is an amplifying feedback. As the planet becomes warmer, the ice surface diminishes. Thus the larger area of ‘darker oceans’ heats up faster. A slow change but inexorable and would take millennium to return to an equilibrium. As oceans become warmer, it gives up CO2 to the atmosphere, another amplifying feedback.
Mr Rees asks how we know this process is anything to do with human interventions. It is now clear that human influences far exceed natural changes. 10,000 times faster than changes before the industrial revolution. Referring to changes since the last ice age, there will of course be natural changes, but humans are contributing to these cycles.
Asked what if nothing is done, what’s the impact? Dr Hansen says disintegration of the ice sheets, extermination of species and taking tens of thousands of years to regenerate. Thus, our grandchildren will inherit a more desolate planet than we have inhabited. We are approaching tipping points when these processes will become alarming. There is disagreement about the rates of change, but, large agreement about it consequences. Being shown many maps, graphs and charts, Dr Hansen interprets ranges of effects leading to ocean rising levels. In Europe, there are higher human populations living next to coasts because of historical maritime commerce. There are of course grave effects awaiting the millions of Bangladesh and numerous islands. The IPCC says that ‘business as usual’ will result in catastrophic rises in ocean levels within this century.
Mr Rees says we now come to ‘King Coal’ why is this fuel significant? Dr Hansen say that it’s because the stocks are so much larger than oil and gas reserves in the earth. Further all resources are finite, with the approach of ‘peak oil’, oil and gas will become more expensive as it becomes more problematic to extract dwindling reserves. Burning coal is the dirtiest of fuels and should be left in the ground. We simply must phase out coal burning for energy generation.
Why is urgent to take action now? It’s because it’s plain that we are approaching these tipping points, and we need to limit amounts of additional CO2 emissions or it wont be possible to avoid passing them. Thus causing distress to future generations. Resulting in imbalances in processes for a very long time. Current governmental target are meaningless without phasing out coal burning. ‘Business as Usual’, might lead to 5degC increase in this century and the planet wont look like it has for the last 10,000 years.
Dr Hansen says it is obvious that unless coal is not burnt, then governments are lying in what they say are their stated aims. I can see why young people are upset when faced with such deception. Referring to the fluctuations in climate described in the many graphs, charts and maps it is apparent humans are changing what is normal.
Miss Gerry cross-examines. Dr Hansen says he’s done his best to educate the public on shortcoming governments. They are mainly influenced in policy by fossil fuel industries. The public needs to be better informed to thus bring about political pressure. He appears pessimistic that governments are listening to peoples concerns.
If we shut all the power stations, and coal mines, what are the alternatives? At present, we don’t have an alternative. Simply improving energy efficiency is not enough. What can ordinary people do? Influence politicians. Burning materials slower wont do it. People see companies lobbying for ‘business as usual’ as having a disproportionate effect on policy. Deniers and contrarians are given equal weight, but they shouldn’t be since opinions are well out of proportions in numbers believing their is nothing to worry about.
He says the media is failing to give the public an explanation on these issues. Sometimes they are funded by corporations with their own agendas. The public cannot hold the politician to account if they are under informed.
Miss Gerry asks if we carry on, are we all going to die? Dr Hansen says yes, we are all going to die anyway. But during the lifetime of our children, there will be many changes to our planets distress.
Governments continue to ignore their responsibility to young people.
There was then a ripple of applause from the public and disapproving looks from court officials. You’re not supposed to do this in courts!
Dr. James E. Hansen : Storms of My Grandchildren:
The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. ISBN-13: 978-1608192007
Dr. James E. Hansen, Head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA’s Goddard Institute http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/jhansen.html
The case continues a bit more …….. etc
In the early hours of April 13th 2009 a highly expensive and widely condemned policing operation saw 114 climate campaigners arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage. In what has been deemed the largest ever ‘pre-emptive’ arrest, hundreds of police burst into a meeting room where plans were being made to safely shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the UK’s third largest coal fired power station.
Had the action gone ahead it would have stopped around 150 thousand tonnes of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere, while drawing attention to the failure of provided democratic channels.
Through invasive surveillance police had gathered information on the activists, pinpointed their location, and interrupted the meeting meaning the action never went ahead. The campaigners were held for over twenty hours before being released onto the streets of Nottingham in the middle of the night, many with their phones and money confiscated.
All charges were dropped for the majority of the 114, but 26 have been committed to Nottingham Crown Court on a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass. The maximum sentence for this offence is three months in prison, a fine of £2,500, or both. All entered a plea of not guilty.
Six of the defendants hadn’t yet decided whether or not to take part in the action when the police arrived on the scene. They were arrested anyway, just for thinking about climate action!
Their trial starts on January 10th 2011, and will be an important case with regard to freedom of protest in the UK. Watch this site for more information closer to the time.
The remaining 20 defendants admit that they planned to shut down the power station, but argue that they are not guilty because they were acting to prevent the greater crimes of death and serious injury caused by climate change. This is called a ‘defence of necessity’. Their trial starts on the 22nd November 2010.
In addition to slowing Ratcliffe’s carbon emissions, this action was to be part of a wider movement for global environmental justice. You only have to look at the floods in Pakistan and the droughts in Russia to see that climate change is hitting those least responsible for it the hardest while putting all of our futures in jeopardy.
Around the world governments are failing to address the climate crises. Instead they protect business as usual as they continue to compete for endless economic growth. This is in spite of increasingly stark warnings from the scientific community of the cost of inaction. By allowing the coal to keep burning at dinosaurs like Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the UK government continues to evade its legal duty to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.
As we face the worst spending cuts in decades we have to ask why so many resources are being ploughed into monitoring climate campaigners, while so little is being done to create an environmentally and economically just future.
From the suffragettes to the civil rights movements, direct action has long been the pathway to change the world for the better. Those on trial are ordinary people experiencing the failures of our present political system, who remain determined to see action taken on climate change.