Climate campaigners from across Europe are reporting they have occupied a site earmarked by Ineos for a major chemicals complex in Belgium.
Ineos, about 60% owned by the British entrepreneur, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has applied to clear woodland from the site, near the port of Antwerp.
But environmentalists have challenged the deforestation plans. They are also opposing the Ineos Project One, which seeks to produce ethylene and propylene from shale gas.
The action reportedly began at 7am local time. A press statement issued this morning said about about 150 climate activists have set up a protest camp on the land. A spokesperson said:
“We are going to occupy the site where the factory was supposed to be, and we intend to stay there as long as necessary. We are going to put up banners and set up tents. It will be a whole campsite, to prevent that the trees would be cut. “
The statement said 55 hectares of forest needed to be cleared to construct the Project One plant.
“With this occupation, the activists aim to prevent the launch of the preparatory phase for the construction of a new plastic factory, Project One, and the planned deforestation of the area. The Flemish government promises hundreds of millions of state aid for this project. The example of the wrong choices being made about the future of the Flemish industry.
Opponents fear the regional environment agency wants to push the deforestation permit through quickly.
The deforestation permits have been opposed by more than 30 environmental organisations and more than 1,000 members of the public, the statement said.
More than 10,000 signatures have been collected against the Project One scheme, the statement added.
The city and province of Antwerp has approved the project and the Regional Environmental Licensing Commission gave a positive opinion last week.
The Flemish regional government now has until 29 October to decide whether to allow the land to be cleared.
A spokesperson for the group, Jasmijn, said:
“Investing in the production of more single-use plastics is absurd nowadays, isn’t it? Furthermore, if this factory is built, the Port of Antwerp’s CO2 emissions will increase by more than 5%, while they urgently need to be reduced”.
Ineos is the top European producer of ethylene, the basic feedstock in the petrochemical industry. It holds the largest number of shale gas exploration licences in England.
Jasmijn said the negative impact of the Ineos Project One would extend beyond the Port of Antwerp:
“Shale gas extraction is already having a lot of social and ecological consequences in Argentina and the US, where communities are being disrupted and natural areas are being destroyed. We do not want a factory here that violates human rights in other parts of the world”.
Police are at the scene but reports say they have not intervened.
3pm bst 3/10/2020
This afternoon, an activist said police had taken all the banners from the site and were cutting people out of lock-ons. Lots of people had been arrested. The protest was described as “a big success”.
9pm bst 3/10/2020
Activists remain detained. Extinction Rebellion Belgium said:
“this is not the end of the resistance. Activist groups from all over the country unite to ban this polluting industry. We keep asking a voice in the choices that are made for the future.”