A wave of anti-coal protests by students and environmental activists at graduate careers fairs has forced E.ON to abandon a national recruitment tour. The energy giant, which is planning to build a new coal power station at Kingsnorth, Kent, saw at least 17 of its careers events around the country disrupted over the last few weeks.
The ‘Mass Popular Anti-Recruitment Actions’ had been a coordinated effort by students and activists involved in such groups as People & Planet, Coal Action Network and the Camp for Climate Action. Jane Benson of the Camp for Climate Action said: “This is a great step for the campaign against a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth. E.ON know they can’t defend their plans in the midst of a climate crisis. So, rather than be embarrassed in front of potential employees, they’ve chosen to run away.”
The most prominent slogan on E.ON‘s recruitment stalls had been “Tackling climate change isn’t something that’s tacked onto our agenda. It’s at the heart of our business.” This was widely spoofed by protesters simply by removing the word “tackling”. Other tactics used by protesters to try to embarrass E.ON and dissuade graduates from joining the company included dumping coal on the E.ON stall (Oxford University), flash mobs wearing yellow “Leave it in the ground” T-shirts (Manchester) or dressed as clowns (Glasgow) or elephants (Birmingham), as climate change is “the elephant in E.ON’s boardroom”. Thousands of anti-E.ON and anti-coal leaflets were also handed out and many banners were dropped, with such slogans as “E.ON:F.OFF” (Leeds) and “Make a living, not a killing” (Cambridge).
Campaigners object to E.ON’s plans to develop new coal-fired power stations. The company had applied for permission to build the UK’s first new coal-fired plant in 30 years at Kingsnorth in Kent. If built, the power station would produce the same amount of carbon dioxide as the world’s 30 least polluting countries combined. Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels and the largest cumulative source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The newly formed Department for Energy and Climate Change is currently deciding whether to give the go-ahead for a new coal power station at Kingsnorth. An announcement is expected soon. Seven other such stations are still in the planning stages.
Robert Jenkins from the People & Planet Associated Network for Direct Action (PANDA) said: “E.ON think they are safe, because most people don’t know they are the owners of Kingsnorth power station. These recruitment fairs have helped to out E.ON as the biggest climate criminal in the UK. After all, as they themselves boast, climate change lies at the heart of everything they do.”
The Royal Bank of Scotland, one of E.ON’s main financial backers, has also been targeted at recruitment fairs for its role in providing loans to large-scale fossil fuel projects, including the new Kingsnorth power station. A recent report by Platform entitled “Cashing in on Coal” has revealed that, in the last two years, RBS-NatWest had been loaned an estimated $16bn in 27 different loans to coal-related companies around the world. This has included taking part in loans worth $70bn to E.ON, at a time when the company was announcing its plans to construct 17 new coal- and gas-fired power plants across Europe.
Other upstanding businesses recently targeted by protesters at careers fairs have included a plethora of companies involved in the fossil fuel industry, such as BP and Shell, and the arms trade, such as BAE, Qinetiq and Rolls Royce.
With immense momentum gathering, protesters have vowed that E.ON will not get away by simply avoiding careers fairs. A joint call-out for “48 hours of action against E.ON and new coal” on 28-29 November, 2008, has been made by the Camp for Climate Action, Rising Tide, Plane Stupid, Campaign against Climate Change and Workers’ Climate Action. For more information, see www.e-onf-off.org.uk and http://climatecamp.org.uk/?q=node/468.