From Italian coal "Banditi" to lauded "Ecopacifisti"

Feature story - April 4, 2008
In a rare case of judicial farsightedness an Italian court has thrown out injunctions against 12 of our volunteers who took action against Italy's most polluting coal power plant. The court ruling even stated that the protest was 'justified due to the danger the coal plant to the local area'.

Action at the most polluting coal plant in Italy, owned by Enel.

In November 2007 we paid a visit to the Brindisi Sud coal power station, which belches out nearly 15 million tons of global warming pollution every year, to label it as the number one Italian cause of climate change.

Local police responded by slapping unique injunctions on our 12 volunteers declaring them "socialmente pericolosi" (a danger to society) and banning them from the local area for three years. Normally only convicted criminals or mafia associates are considered a "danger to society". This was the first time that Italian police have used such an injunction for a peaceful demonstration.

Clearly the real danger to society is massive coal plants releasing millions of tonnes of global warming pollution every year. In response hundreds of Italians also declared themselves "banditi" for the climate, posting their pictures on our website in support of the volunteers.

When the injunctions were contested in the Court of Lecce the judge over turned the injunctions and stated: "The demonstration had justifiable and appreciable motivations in the high environmental risk the power station poses to the whole area ... the action has been a reaction to the polluting threat of the power station, which negates the nature of the intrusion, which in another case would be unacceptable".

With Italian state and energy companies seeking to expand coal power in Italy, this is clearly someone who can see the huge danger of coal expansion. He would do a much better job than the politicians currently in charge of Italian energy policy, like the Ministry for Economic Development, Mr. Pierluigi Bersani.

The local community of Brindisi are also taking a stand against the polluting coal plant. The town council has even proposed a motion to give the ex-bandits honorary citizenship.

No climate for old coal

Globally plans for new coal plants have been hitting the buffers. The most polluting form of energy generation is finally coming under more scrutiny. Only vested interests are refusing to acknowledge that new coal will blow any chance of meeting vital climate targets. The plan for the first new coal plant in the UK for decades has been delayed. In the US, of the 151 coal-fired power plants in the planning stages during 2007, 59 proposed plants were either refused licenses by state governments or quietly abandoned. In addition, close to 50 coal plants are being contested in the courts, and the remaining plants will likely be challenged when they reach the permitting stage.

We need an Energy Revolution, not new coal. That means investment in clean energy and enhanced energy efficiency measures. Investing in renewable energy like wind energy and solar power, or in combined heat and power plants - which take the excess heat created by electricity generation and make it available for heating rather than letting it dissipate into the atmosphere - can deliver the CO2 savings we need.

Coal has no future if we are to tackle climate change - coal's massive carbon emissions are the real danger to society.

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