Mossmorran, home of two fossil fuel plants, has been chosen as the site for Scotland’s 2020 Climate Camp. This is good news for the Mossmorran Action Group (MAG), a dedicated campaign group set up by James Glen and George Kinnell. MAG represents a community that, as James Glen described when speaking to the OWP, has reached “the end of their tether.”
Mossmorran is the site of both the Fife Natural Gas Liquid Plant (operated by Shell) and the Fife Ethylene Plant (operated by ExxonMobil). The plants receive gas from the UK and Norway and refine it before exporting it to international customers, where it is used to create products such as plastic, pharmaceuticals, paints, and detergents. The ExxonMobil plant produced 892,964 tonnes of CO2 in 2017, making it the third-highest source of climate emissions in Scotland. The Carbon Majors Report named ExxonMobil as one of the top five companies responsible for causing climate change in 2017. Both ExxonMobil and Shell have been accused of human rights abuses, and in 2018, Shell, who made an annual profit of $24 billion, avoided paying any UK taxes.
Local residents and environmental activists have been protesting the two plants since plans were submitted to build them back in 1971 when the Brent Oil and Gas Field was discovered. MAG was set up when Kinnell and Glen organised a public meeting to discuss the plants with the aim to draw attention to the environmental, social, and health impacts of the site.
One of the most apparent impacts of the Mossmorran plants is the presence of flares, which happens when unwanted or excess gases and liquids are shot out into the air whilst on fire. The aim of this is to try and dispose of these chemicals in the least environmentally damaging way. This practice alone is evidence for the fact that there is no way to burn fossil fuels without compromising the environment. The practice is not getting any more efficient, as the amount of pollutants released by the plants has steadily risen. One of the key chemicals released is Benzene which, whilst it does not last long in the air, is a carcinogen which is toxic when inhaled. These flares look imposing, a flaming column of combustion which lights up the sky both at night and in the day.
MAG has created a Social Impacts Map which allows local residents to record their experiences of the effects of the plants. These range from mental health challenges (such as anxiety and sleep deprivation due to noise) as well as physical health impacts (breathing issues, headaches during flares, exacerbated respiratory illnesses, and increasing levels of cancer).
Representatives of MAG were present at Climate Camp Scotland’s 2020 Decision Day on January 26th. The public meeting, which was attended by over 100 people, collaborated to choose a specific site for this year’s climate camp – the choices were between New Gas Hunterson, Shell and ExxonMobil at Mossmorran, INEOS at Grangemouth, and the Oil Capital of Europe – Aberdeen. Climate camps are sites where activists camp over several days – in this case, five days – creating a space for various activist groups to come together. This creates a physical focus for groups to put pressure on certain areas (in this case, Mossmorran), as well as a less literal focus where various groups and individuals can band together to organize and collaborate on future protest plans. There are also workshops, training events, and talks for attendees.
During November 2020, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) will be held in Glasgow, and it is vital for environmental groups and activists to form strong links in preparation for this meeting. Previous COPs have failed to produce adequate action in response to the climate emergency, and it is vital for increased pressure to be put on governments.
Speaking to OWP, James Glen states that himself, MAG, and the surrounding communities are glad to see that Mossmorran is receiving higher levels of coverage and that there is a chance for direct action and higher levels of awareness. When questioned as to whether he worries that the voices of the local community could be drowned out by national and international groups at the Climate Camp (such as Extinction Rebellion, the Green Anti-Capitalist Front, and Earth Strike), Glen responded that this is not a concern of his. He pointed out that Mossmorran is connected to the international oil industry and so their involvement with the wider climate movement is ideal.
The combination of the intensely local, national (and potentially, global) spheres of involvement is what the bedrock of the modern climate movement is built on. This event is a prime example of how local communities and voices work as the driving force behind the fight for the environment. Scotland’s 2020 Climate Camp might be appearing to mark the beginning of Scottish environmental protests leading up to COP, but for MAG and its supporters, it is a long time coming.
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