The Axe Drax group, a coalition between Biofuelwatch, Extinction Rebellion and Save Rimrose Valley are taking action on the 14th of August against Drax Power Station, the UK’s biggest polluter. Campaigners will stage creative and peaceful protests at 11 locations along the Drax train line which transports wood pellets from Liverpool Port to Drax Power Station. Alongside this there will be digital and social media actions. These actions are calling for an end to Drax’s tree burning and its train of destruction that carves a path through the North. Actions will range from banner drops to family-friendly puppet shows and tree planting. Campaigners will also call on MPs to transfer around £1 billion in UK renewable subsidies from biomass burning power stations like Drax to genuine renewables.
The Axe Drax protestors have three demands:
- Stop Subsidising Ecocide: the government must remove the £789.5 million in subsidies for Drax Power Station and transfer them to genuine renewables.
- Leave it in the Ground: stop Drax building Europe’s biggest ever fossil gas power station.
- Stop the Lies: end what is possibly the most comprehensive and dangerous greenwashing campaign the UK has seen.
Twelve times a day the Drax trains cross the viaduct in the centre of our little West Yorkshire town of Todmorden. They’re really long, usually 25 wagons, and they really do draw your eye. The slogans on all the wagons look really progressive ‘Biofuels-powering the future’ and ‘Pioneering the northern powerhouse’. It’s only because I campaigned in the past over Drax’s coal burning emissions that I decided to investigate their claims for myself. I found out they were greenwashing these claims and were not only causing massive environmental damage but huge social harm too.
Maggie Smith from Todmorden
Drax Power Station, located in Yorkshire, burns 12 million tonnes of trees every year . Despite being legally classified as ‘renewable’ by the UK government, it remains the largest carbon emitter in the UK. This takes advantage of a carbon accounting loophole, meaning that they are able to exclude the carbon cost of clear felling forests in the US when they are burned in the UK. In 2019 Drax emitted almost 13 million tonnes of CO₂ from burning wood, and received £2.36 million in daily subsidy with £2.16 million counted as renewable subsidies. This is a grave misuse of public money, and Axe Drax are calling for an end to all subsidies for Drax and for them to be transferred towards funding genuine renewable energy projects.
We are taking action, not only because of the environmental damage caused but the immediate and destructive impact Drax has upon human lives. Supposed bioenergy solutions often have the same fatal flaws associated with fossil fuels, they hurt low income BIPOC communities the most and serve to perpetuate environmental racism.
In the Southern US, communities living in close proximity to the wood pellet mills used to supply Drax suffer from air, water and noise pollution as well as poverty and injustice . The destruction of forests caused by Drax also destroys biodiverse forests which local communities depend on for clean air and water. These forests have historically served to protect communities from extreme weather and flooding: only set to increase in the near future due to climate breakdown.
Enviva has made people prisoners in their own homes. People are profiting and we’re suffering.
Belinda Joyner, Dogwood Alliance Campaigner
Harm brought upon communities by Drax occurs closer to home too, following the train line of destruction through the North. The extreme amount of wood pellets imported through Liverpool Peel Ports by Drax has forced the port to expand. This has created large amounts of noise pollution and disruption upon local communities – all so that Drax can continue slashing down ancient woodlands and pumping pollution into our air. Noise pollution follows the train line, harming communities in Calderdale all the way along to Selby which suffers from the constant pumping of pollution into the air.
Despite their constant greenwashing Drax continues to demonstrate a complete disregard for people’s health, let alone the planet. In Selby, local air pollution levels are not measured – making it impossible for us to know exactly how much Drax is harming the health of local communities – despite the fact that York and the surrounding area have robust measuring systems in place. We know that burning wood pellets emits a large amount of air pollution, yet Drax fails to take responsibility for this.
The practice of chopping down healthy trees to make pellets in the USA and importing these to the UK to be burned is just about as unsustainable as it gets. Sadly, the Port of Liverpool is facilitating this. With no hint of irony its owners, Peel Ports, bemoan the absence of East-West rail links for the movement of freight, but are more than happy to occupy a vital East-West link specifically for Drax, which could and should be being used to move containers. Instead, Peel Ports are sitting back and waiting for the Government to build them a road for their HGVs, through a vital country park, destroying more trees in the process. This is what we’re fighting and it’s one of the reasons the Save Rimrose Valley campaign supports the calls Axe Drax. Big business literally bulldoze their way through our green spaces, harming the environment and impacting people’s lives.
It has to stop.
Ms Kate Elder Fuller, Save Rimrose Valley campaigner
The push for biofuels as a renewable solution is only increasing as we hurt towards climate and ecological collapse. AxeDrax has come together to demand that we listen to the science which demonstrates biofuels are not a viable solution. We demand that our government invests money in genuine renewables, that prioritise the well-being of communities and our planet over profit.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
- Biofuelwatch’s briefing on Drax
- Dogwood Alliance – Community Voices Fact Sheet
- The Injustice of Bioenergy Production
- Biomass and air pollution
- Drax subsidies
Though we must take action, we must do so safely. Each of those taking action in person will be maintaining social distancing as far as possible, and will be wearing PPE with hand sanitizer available. We have provided safety guidelines to each group taking part in this action about following public health advice – as with climate change we aim to listen to the experts.
We feel a duty to to balance the needs of people’s safety with the necessity of holding Drax accountable due to their greenwashing and ecologically destructive behaviour that destroys forests and livelihoods here in the North and in America. We are constantly making these decisions, and all are able to be changed if the situation regarding COVID-19 changes.