Last October, Fuel Poverty Action joined forces with the Greater London Pensioners’ Association for what was to be the first of many collaborative actions. In this action, around fifty pensioners and allies staged a ‘warm up’ demonstration inside Westfield Stratford shopping centre . The point was to draw attention to the fact that many pensioners have no option but to spend their days inside public spaces like shopping centres, as they can’t afford to heat their own home.
Just two days after this action, twenty one climate activists began their week-long occupation of West Burton gas-fired power station in Nottinghamshire, launching a new movement named No Dash for Gas. This ambitious and bold direct action was taken to put a spanner in the works of the government’s plan to build up to forty new gas fired power stations.
The link between these groups and actions might not be an obvious one, but it is crucial. As well as threatening an exacerbated climate crisis, if the government and their mates in the energy companies opt to build more gas power stations instead of investing in renewable power, then energy bills will go through the roof. The situation facing pensioners – and the millions of others currently facing an impossible choice between heating and eating – will become even more severe. The consequences of this will be more ill health, more poverty and more winter deaths.
That’s why members of FPA, the GLPA and No Dash for Gas got together at the GLPA AGM last Saturday to talk gas, bills, climate and alternatives. None of the pensioners present bought the lies being spread about the costs of renewable energy – everyone knew that the real reason why bills are rising is the rising cost of gas, alongside Big Six profiteering. All agreed on the urgent need for action on climate change – with odd and unpredictable weather in recent years being telling evidence of the scale of the problem. And, finally, there was unanimous agreement on the need for publicly owned renewable energy to bring down bills, tackle climate change and take power from the Big Six and put it back in people’s hands.
Today, No Dash for Gas have announced that in August this year, activists will be returning to West Burton power station for a four-day protest camp called Reclaim the Power. At Saturday’s meeting, FPA and the GLPA pledged to do all we can to participate and support.
Bus-loads of pensioners turning up to take direct action at the doorstep of the first of the new gas power stations planned under the dash for gas may sound like a scene from George Osborne’s worse nightmare. But the Greater London Pensioners’ Association made it clear on Saturday that they intend to bring it on.
Here’s the motion passed at the GLPA’s AGM:
· The thousands of deaths from fuel poverty each year in the UK are not necessary or acceptable
· Energy companies should not be allowed their sky-rocketing bills and obscene profits at the expense of people’s lives
· Climate change poses a real threat to everything we’ve worked and fought for for ourselves and our children and grandchildren
· Because of climate change and because of the rising price of gas and other fossil fuels, energy policy should be to move away from subsidising and promoting these fuels, and to invest instead in alternatives. By this we mean developing clean, climate-friendly, renewable energy from the wind, sun, waves and tides, under democratic control and for the benefit of our communities.
· It must be a priority to fully insulate homes and prevent the waste of energy, deaths, illness and suffering caused by cold homes and fuel poverty.
· Energy should go back under public ownership.