This week sees the 5th Anniversary of the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement.
So far, despite noble words, ambitious commitments, and powerful speeches, carbon emissions have continued to increase, not fall. Various activist groups marked the date with local and global campaigns, especially focussing on shale gas/fracking.
Real Media joined the launch of Plastics Rebellion outside the unmarked HQ of the huge chemical conglomerate Ineos which has been one of the main players in the dash for fracking rights in the UK over the past decade.
We met up with Joe Corré, a businessman who fought hard against fracking – he was founder of the Talk Fracking campaign, and offered support to many local anti-fracking groups around the country. He recently won his appeal court case against Ineos’ billionaire boss Jim Ratcliffe, retrieving huge costs after a legal battle against Ratcliffe’s attempt to silence protest by injunction.
Corré has always suspected that the story the government put out, that fracking was about securing the UK’s energy supplies, was dubious. And after a decade of campaigns, culminating in a UK moratorium last November, it looks like he was right. Ratcliffe’s company built a huge factory complex in Grangemouth, Scotland, which receives fracked shale gas direct from Pennsylvania, not for energy, but to create plastic packaging.
Plastics Rebellion held their small socially distanced protest with some banners, singers, a small samba band, and speakers, outside the Ineos HQ. They are calling for a massive reduction in our use of plastics, a swift end to manufacture of non-essential plastics, and a fully legislative, fully informed Citizen’s Assembly on Plastics to decide on what plastics are essential, how plastic waste should be managed, and how we can manage a just transition for the industry.
But after just 15 minutes, police were citing coronavirus legislation as a reason to disrupt and close down the action. Campaigners claimed that they were covered by exemption 14 which (in order to comply with UK human rights law) allows political protest of up to 30 people, as long as a full risk assessment has been drawn up and people are abiding by it.
But the Metropolitan force and City of London police have both started claiming that they are not able to judge assessments on the street, and will ignore them unless the local authority has authorised them. A police liaison person acting for the campaigners told us that they had tried to get authorisation from the local authority but that no-one qualified was available and emails had not been responded to.
So far this interpretation of the legislation has not been tested in court, and with new coronavirus rules every few weeks, and prohibitive costs to mount judicial reviews, the effect in practice is a ban on protests, especially smaller socially distanced ones where police can easily intimidate people.
As part of the #ShaleMustFall day of action which saw protests across the world there was a further action later in the day organised by Frack Off London outside BP’s headquarters. BP’s subsidiary Pan American Energy is extracting shale gas in the Vaca Muerta region of Argentina. It’s described as a carbon timebomb, with oil and gas reserves estimated to amount to around 15% of the maximum carbon budget we’re allowed to burn globally in order to not exceed a 1.5º temperature increase.