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Support for coal power 'shameful'

Christian Aid is dismayed at strong indications today from Secretary of State for Business John Hutton that the Government supports the building of a new generation of coal-fired power stations in Britain.

The international development agency says such a move would be a shameful climb down from the leading role the UK has taken in demanding worldwide cuts in carbon emissions, and makes a mockery of the Climate Change Bill at present going through Parliament.

Christian Aid says it is now imperative that a public inquiry is held into plans for the first of the new power stations at Kingsnorth in Kent. If given the go-ahead, it will emit in excess of seven million tonnes of CO2 each year – more than the annual emissions of 30 developing countries combined.

Andrew Pendleton, Christian Aid’s senior climate change policy analyst, said today that a new generation of coal fired power plants in the UK would affect vulnerable communities far beyond Britain’s shores.

‘Gordon Brown says he is committed to helping the developing world. This flies in the face of such sentiments,’ he said.

‘Climate change caused by greenhouse gases is already having a devastating impact on the poor living in parts of the world subject to extreme weather conditions. Those with the least responsibility for causing the problem are bearing its brunt.

‘A new generation of coal-fired power plants will push the world closer to global temperature rises of more than CO2,  the threshold beyond which scientists warn that catastrophic global climate change will take hold.

‘If the UK is in any way serious about its part in the global effort to tackle climate change, and truly wants to see an international agreement in two years time, then the government will not approve these plants without a full and open debate.

‘The last thing we want is more emissions. Official support for new stations burning coal, the most carbon intensive of all fossil fuels, is shameful. It is essential that a public inquiry is held in which not only the voices of the environmentalists can be heard, but also organisations working in developing countries.’

Mr Pendleton said it was particularly disturbing that the Secretary of State maintained that Britain could still meet proposed carbon emission cuts despite the building of a new generation of coal-fired power plants.

‘It is becoming increasingly clear that a significant proportion of the emission cuts being debated in the Climate Change Bill will be achieved through the use of overseas credits, or ‘off sets’, purchased from poorer nations, ‘ he said.

‘This is a ludicrous state of affairs. Countries such as the UK which have been major polluters for centuries must not only cut their own emissions by at least 80 per cent, but help finance clean development in poorer countries.”

‘Any new coal-powered station will fatally undermine the UK’s Government’s public stance that significant carbon cuts worldwide are urgently needed, making other countries, particularly emerging economies, reluctant to take action themselves.

Energy company E.ON, which wants to replace the present, ageing power station at Kingsnorth, maintains that the new station will be ‘carbon capture ready’.

‘But no one knows when that technology will be ready’, said Andrew Pendleton. ‘New coal-fired power stations are not acceptable until a way has been found of capturing the carbon emissions they will produce and safely storing them underground.’

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Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.
2. Christian Aid supports I Count, the campaign of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition which brings together over 70 organisations, from environment, development charities to unions, faith and women's groups.
I Count backs a Climate Change Bill which commits the UK to at least 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050. Lobby your local MP and make the Climate Change Bill count www.icount.org.uk.