Climate activist douses government building in orange paint in protest against Drax energy giant

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An Axe Drax protester outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.   (Axe Drax)
An Axe Drax protester outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. (Axe Drax)

A climate protester scaled a government department Wednesday spraying the building with orange paint in protest against the energy giant Drax Group.

A photo showed the glass doors of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy dripping with orange paint. The protester, dressed in orange, stood above the glass doors next to a banner that read: “Stop Burning Trees.”

The protest by campaign group Axe Drax comes on the day of the Drax Group’s annual general meeting and the Argus Biomass Conference in London, which Drax and other biomass companies are due to attend. Protests have been planned in London, York, Leeds, Hull and Liverpool.

The Axe Drax activist group is part of the Stop Burning Trees coalition, which also includes groups such as Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion. The coalition has said it’s taking action Wednesday against the “destructive biomass industry” and demands that companies like Drax stop burning trees.

Joe Irving, a spokesperson for Axe Drax, said the plan Wednesday was to protest outside the location where Drax’s annual general meeting will be heard, before marching on the Argus Biomass Conference where he said biomass companies would discuss “how to make money from burning trees”.

“The only thing we can do is disrupt from the outside, by making as much noise as possible,” he added.

Drax is a global energy company which has a power station near Selby in North Yorkshire that is fuelled by biomass pelletes. The group says using the pellets reduces its carbon emissions by 80 per cent compared to coal, and that the company generates 12 per cent of the UK’s renewable power.

Earlier this year, climate think tank Ember said new data shows that Drax received £893 million in subsidies for burning biomass last year.

The Metropolitan police said Wednesday that at approximately 8 a.m. two protesters sprayed paint on a building in Victoria Street. A man and a woman were arrested for criminal damage, the police added.

A spokesperson for Drax said converting Drax power station in North Yorkshire to use sustainable biomass has transformed it into the UK’s largest producer of secure, renewable power.

“Drax does not cut down trees,” the spokesperson said. “Our pellets are produced from the waste material that is left behind from the construction and furniture making industries, such as sawdust from sawmills, off-cuts, tree-tops and smaller, diseased, or misshapen trees that have little commercial value.”

“If we didn’t take this material it would mostly be sent for disposal, burned by the side of the road, or left to rot on the forest floor,” the spokesperson added.

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