Drax faces environmental protests at AGM

Energy company, Drax, which operates the biggest power station in the UK, faced protest from environmental campaigners at its AGM on Wednesday (20 April 16).

Groups including Biofuelwatch and the London Mining Network joined forces to protest about its business activities. Specifically campaigners claim that the coal-fired power station sources coal from  mining companies that have forcefully evicted communities and the power station  emits huge amounts of air pollution and emits more carbon than any other power station in the UK. The power station also burns wood pellets, classed as biomass, which means the company is entitled to subsidies – estimated to be worth around £1 million a day – because this fuel is is designated as ‘renewable energy’ under EU and UK legislation. However, the campaigners claim that the wood pellets have been made from biodiverse wetland forests in the southern US.

Addressing the issues of sustainability at the AGM Philip Cox, chairman of Drax said the company had increasingly switched from burning coal to sourcing biomass to reduce carbon emissions and to respond to the impact of climate change. He reassured shareholders at the meeting that the company only sources wood from  from countries that already have huge working forests where we provide another market for low grade material that local solid-wood industries, such as construction and furniture, aren’t using. The company he said would only work in countries with proper regulation and where all the suppliers pass tough screening and sustainability audits, conducted by independent auditors. He added that Drax would never cause deforestation or forest decline, would only take wood from working forests that grow back and stay as forests and would never source wood from areas that are officially protected or where our activities would harm endangered species.

In Manifest’s latest analysis of Drax’s sustainability reporting for 2015, published last month, the company was awarded a grade C and a score of 64% for its efforts, indicating the company is still developing quality reporting in this area. The company scored just under 50% for its disclosure and transparency but was marked zero for its public participation in environmental disclosure programmes having declined to participate in the Global Reporting Initiative and the Carbon Disclosure Project. The company said in its annual report that  ‘we uphold the four labour principles of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) on sustainability and corporate citizenship’ but it does not appear on the UNGC’s website and no further information is provided by the Drax.

Following the protest at the AGM a petition, which had attracted 84,437 signatures globally (27,967 from the UK) was taken to the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Whitehall. This urged the government to end its subsidies for Drax.

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