Getting the numbers down to just 10 heroes and 10 villains was a tough job. Here’s two that our panel wanted to include. If this has got you thinking about other omissions, then tell us about it – have your say here.
Heroes: The Kingsnorth Six
The biggest single blow to government plans to license new coal-fired power stations was struck in a court in Maidstone, Kent, in September 2008. Six Greenpeace volunteers were acquitted of criminal damage by a Crown Court jury in a case that centred on the contribution made to climate change by burning coal.
The charges arose after the six attempted to shut down the county’s ageing Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in October 2007. After nine hours climbing ladders through dust and fumes inside a 660ft smokestack, two of them abseiled down the outside and painted the Prime Minister’s name on the chimney.
The defendants pleaded “not guilty”, relying in court on the defence of “lawful excuse”: they claimed they had brought the power station to a halt in order to defend property of a greater value from the global impact of climate change.
At the end of a five-day trial, which saw a host of expert defence witnesses, 12 jurors from the heart of England said it was legitimate for the “Kingsnorth Six” to shut down a coal-fired power station because of the harm it does to the planet.
If it wasn’t for the Kingsnorth Six, it’s likely that plans for a new highly polluting plant at Kingsnorth would still be on the table. That was the intention for the site before the activists set out that day. That’s why these six are climate heroes.
Villain: Lord Peter Mandelson
First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council – his list of titles alone reveals the extent of the power Peter Mandelson now wields over the UK government. He was widely acknowledged as one of the architects of the “New Labour” project, which saw Labour increasingly move away from its traditional social justice agenda for one focused on neoliberal-style development through privatisation and private finance initiatives.
During his time as European trade commissioner and in the years since, Mandelson has been close to – and on the yachts of – big business, and wedded to the further expansion of the EU’s “free market” economic strategy. In particular, he pioneered the “Global Europe” trading policy that, in trying to access markets in poorer countries, has the potential to compromise local development efforts in the process. This strategy seems designed to profit big business, and, in my view, makes it more difficult for poor countries to profit from trade and develop sustainably in terms of climate change adaptation, employment rights, gender, migration and energy security. He has also consistently supported airport expansion, including the third runway at Heathrow.