More than a hundred people participated in a maritime blockade of Newcastle Port on November 3 to protest the expansion of the export coal industry and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Hundreds more people watched the protest from shore. The protesters, in a flotilla of kayaks, canoes and small boats blocked the main shipping channel for about 5 hours.
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Newcastle is the world's biggest coal port, with the NSW Government committing to a third export coal terminal and new coal mines, while the world faces a climate crisis. According to the latest figures submitted to the United Nations, Australia is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters in the developed world, and rapidly getting worse. Australia's emissions increased by 26 per cent from 1990 to 2005, which was one the fastest rates of emissions growth among developed nations. Average emissions per person in Australia is now 26 tonnes per year, outranking the USA (25t), Russia (14t), India (10t), and China (4t).
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle participated in the blockade and claimed later that the action had delayed the transport of coal which when burnt would put 1.66 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
"If Labor and the government were serious about stopping climate change they would have a plan for the transition from dirty coal to renewable energy, but they don't," she said according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The protest was organised by climate protest group Rising Tide Newcastle. Spokesperson Georgina Wood said the protest against the expansion of coal export facilities was a success. "It is clear the community is calling for change, and that our governments need to heed that call."
A woman suffered back injuries from a police jetski that failed to stop in time during the protest. She was taken to hospital but released a short time later. A Rising Tide spokeperson told the ABC the incident was due to aggressive actions by police. Police are investigating the incident.
The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change is due to hand down the final part of the Fourth Assessment report on November 17, which will help set the agenda for climate talks scheduled in Bali in December 2007.