Climate protest: More than 100 arrested at world’s largest coal port

An aerial shot of protestors spelling out we are the rising tide

By Hannah Ritchie

BBC News, Sydney

A two-day blockade of the world’s largest coal port has triggered 109 arrests.

Hundreds of activists swam or used kayaks to occupy the Newcastle port’s shipping lane in Australia, to protest against climate inaction.

They claim the disruption prevented over half a million tonnes of coal from leaving the country.

Australia is the world’s second biggest coal exporter and relies on the fossil fuel for its own electricity needs.

Located roughly 170km (105 miles) from Sydney, the Port of Newcastle is the country’s most important terminal for coal shipments.

An estimated 3,000 people from across Australia took part in the 30-hour weekend blockade of its shipping lane, which had been approved by police.

But dozens of protesters remained in the water following the protest cut-off point – triggering 109 arrests, including five minors who were subsequently released.

On Monday, 104 people were charged over their refusal to leave the harbour channel, according to a statement from New South Wales police.

“I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations,” said 97-year-old Alan Stuart, who defied the deadline.

“I am so sorry that they will have to suffer the consequences of our inaction. So, I think it is my duty to do what I can,” he added.

Rising Tide – which organised the action – has called it the “biggest act of civil disobedience for climate in Australia’s history”.

The protest took place just days ahead of COP28, the yearly global climate change summit, which begins in Dubai on Thursday.

The blockade
Image caption,Hundreds of activists swam or used kayaks to occupy the shipping lane

Rising Tide says it wants Anthony Albanese’s government to tax thermal coal exports and cancel new fossil fuel projects.

Australia has long been considered a climate laggard, but Mr Albanese promised to “join the global effort” to curb emissions when taking office in 2022.

Since then, his government has enshrined into law an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030, up from the nation’s previous commitment of 26-28%. That difference is equivalent to eliminating emissions from Australia’s entire transport or agriculture sectors.

But Mr Albanese has also refused to outlaw new fossil fuel projects completely – and has green lit four new coal mines since last May, with 25 more projects waiting for approval, according to the Australia Institute.

Anjali Beams, a 17-year-old school student from Adelaide who was one of the last protesters to leave the Newcastle shipping lane on Sunday, said she was risking arrest because Australia’s “decision makers have consistently ignored young people’s voices”.

“I will not be complicit in letting my future get sold away by the fossil fuel industry for their profit,” she added.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *