Cross posted from The Great Beyond
Criminal damage in the name of climate change is not a criminal offence, according to a shock ruling from a British court.
A jury yesterday acquitted six Greenpeace activists who claimed that the threat of global warming was a ‘lawful excuse’ for the damage they caused while protesting at a coal power plant (see this blog post for background).
Climate change scientist James Hansen had previously backed the six: he released a statement declaring “We will need our Mercedes-driving lawyer friends to tell us if the verdict has greater significance — but the jurors were common people, not politicians.
“The main point, that the government, the utility, and the fossil fuel industry, were aware of the facts [of climate change] but continued to ignore them are more generally valid worldwide. It raises the question of whether the right people are on trial.”
Eco-warriors’ UK paper of choice The Independent says the verdict “will have shocked ministers and energy companies”. In the Guardian, veteran environment correspondent Jon Videl says it will “embarrass the government and lead to more direct action protests against energy companies”.
Ben Stewart, one of those acquitted, said “It wasn’t only us in the dock, it was the coal-fired generation as well. … This verdict marks a tipping point for the climate change movement. When a jury of normal people say it is legitimate for a direct action group to shut down a coal-fired power station because of the harm it does to our planet, then where does that leave Government energy policy? We have the clean technologies at hand to power our economy. It’s time we turned to them instead of coal.”
According to the Times, “E.ON, which owns the power plant, said that the company was in a state of shock over the verdict.