Twenty climate activists who planned to shut down one of Britain’s most polluting power stations for a week were found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass today.

The activists were among 114 people arrested in a dawn raid on Easter Monday last year in a widely criticised policing operation that saw officers smashing their way into a school in Nottingham. It was the biggest pre-emptive arrest in British history. Twenty of those arrested faced a crown court trial which opened last month and ended today. The activists openly accepted they wanted to force plant owners Eon to safely shut down the power station for a week in an effort to stop 150,000 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere – but they said they weren’t guilty of a crime because they were acting out necessity due to the lack of an adequate response to climate change by corporations and politicians. This comes as the 16th UN Climate Change talks end in Cancun, where once again governments have failed to build a legally binding strategy to cut emissions.

Speaking after the verdict one of the defendants, Clare Whitney, said:

“During this trial we have heard from people on the front line of our changing climate, and from a company that is still burning the most dirty form of fossil fuel for their economic benefit. These worlds are not compatible. Taking action is not an issue of moral righteousness but an act of self-defence. If we’re to stand a chance of avoiding irreversible climate change we’ve got to realise that to bring about a better world we’ll need to do it ourselves.”

Defendant Chris Kitchen said

“We are in solidarity with all those around the world fighting for climate and social justice. Together we need to stop the root causes of climate change, we need to stop profit being put before people. It’s big business and politicians are that are the real criminals and we will not stand by as we are robbed of our future.”

Dan Glass, another defendant in the case, said:

“This ruling won’t stop emissions. But the huge support we have received from the people of Nottingham and internationally, does demonstrate that public opinion is increasingly turning against the liberties that governments are taking with our future.”

The court had earlier heard that a team of protesters would have pressed the emergency stop buttons on the coal conveyors which feed the boilers, while another team would have climbed the inside of the chimney before abseiling into the flues to prevent the plant re-opening for a week, saving 150,000 tonnes of CO2. Six defendants took to the witness stand. One, Ben Stewart, told the jury: “we did this to save human lives. I can’t tell you if the lives we would have saved would have been my relatives or your relatives, but they would have been somebody’s relatives.” All defendants spoke of huge amount of community engagement they have carried out to raise the issue of action on climate change, whilst still seeing emissions continuing to rise unabated.

The defendants also called a number of internationally renowned expert witnesses. They included Professor James Hansen, acclaimed as the world’s leading climate scientist. He told the jury: “It doesn’t surprise me that young people are angry when they know that politicians are lying to them.” When challenged by the judge as to the measurable effects of the defendants’ proposed action, Hansen noted that the action could have prevented one, if not more, species from becoming extinct. Dr Ian Roberts, Professor of Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Medicine detailed to the court the real and imminent threat to health posed by climate change, saying we risk a ‘generational genocide’ as we ‘sleep walk into a nightmare’. Dr Roberts told the court that at least 150,000 people a year were dying as a result of man-made climate change.

Former local MP Alan Simpson also appeared as a witness for the defence. In his written testimony he said: ‘Climate Change protestors are in my view absolutely right to argue that we cannot continue with a ‘business as usual’ approach to UK carbon emissions without threatening the very prospects of existence for future generations.’ Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP told the court politicians had failed in their duty to protect the public from climate change.

Ends

Notes:
1. The conspiracy to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in April 2009 is different from the Great Climate Swoop of October 2009 (http://climatecamp.org.uk/actions/climate-swoop-2009)

Statement from the defendants

As the UN climate talks finish in Cancun, and fail once again to come up with any legally binding framework to reduce emissions, the British legal system is still upholding business as usual. This can’t continue. Burning coal has no future.

We are twenty of the 114 who were targets of the biggest pre-emptive arrest in UK history, as part of the increasing drive to stifle real action on climate change. We planned not only to stop carbon emissions from Ratcliffe but to be part of a much wider movement for global social justice. Dealing with climate change means looking at its root causes and we need to question why the profits of corporations such as e.on are being prioritised over people on the front line of our changing climate and the protection of our children’s futures.

In the 3 weeks we’ve been on trial over 17,000 people have died from the effects of climate change, species have continued to disappear and a few energy CEOs have continued to line their pockets. It’s the poorest and most vulnerable communities, those least responsible for this crisis, who are being hit the hardest.

Taking action on climate change is not an act of moral righteousness, but of self-defence. History is full of ordinary people who have acted to protect their fundamental rights and we need a strong movement of people doing just that. We want to reiterate our support for everyone fighting for climate justice.