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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hundreds rally to oppose brown coal allocation and export from Victoria

Hundreds rallied outside the Victorian Parliament House opposing plans for brown coal allocation and development for a coal export industry from the La Trobe Valley and Gippsland.

Currently 13 billion tonnes of brown coal is being considered for allocation by the Napthine conservative state Governmnet, despite the impact of this in carbon emissions on climate change and increasing temperatures and extreme weather. As well as the allocation of coal licences, $90 million of Federal and State subsidies are also up for grab. Does subsidising brown coal make sense when we should rapidly be transitioning to renewables?

Already 8,000 people have signed a petition against the coal allocation and coal exports, with 3,000 of those signatures being given to Labor to table in parliament later this week.

Climate activist and author outlined David Spratt outlined the junction we are facing with climate change and the necessity for leaving Victoria's brown coal in the ground. Here is the text of his speech published on the Climate Code Red blog:

We are here today because our climate scientists are telling us that to have a habitable and biodiverse planet, we have to keep fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas in the ground.

Our climate is already hotter and more extreme. This year Australia has the experienced the hottest day, week, and month on record. 2013 is likely to be the hottest year on record in Australia.

In recent years, Australia has had a record two years of rain, repeated 1-in-a-100-year floods, and extreme bush fires in Victoria and Tasmania, and an extraordinary out-of-season bushfire in NSW this spring.

These events teach us that climate change is now, not in some distant future. These extreme events are a glimpse of our future on a hot planet.

Climate change is already dangerous, as we see in the Arctic, on the Barrier reef, in the Phillipines with Cyclone Haiyan, and in the low-lying small nations of the Pacific.

On the present emissions trajectory, we are heading towards four degrees of warming this century. Most of Australia would experience extreme events of over 50 degrees. Remember Black Saturday was 47 degrees!

Our leading scientists say that four degrees or warming is incompatible with the preservation and development of human civilisation.

Nations aim to keep global warming to two degrees, but our our scientists tells us that two degrees is the threshold between dangerous and very dangerous climate change.

Yet to to limit warming to two degrees, emissions reductions for high-polluting countries such as Australia are now from 6-10% a year, starting now.

We cannot negotiate with the climate system, instead we must to act to rapidly reduce our global arming emissions.

But the Victorian government wants to hand up to up to 13 billion tonnes of brown coal for export and burning.

Now they have a choice.

They can can protect the Victorian people and their way of life, their land and farms, their water and food security by keeping fossil fuels such as coal and coal seam gas in the ground and build the clean, renewable economy.

Or they can head into a dirty, export coal rush.

They can't do both.

If they are so foolish as to put dirty brown coal exports above the well-being and future of the Victorian people, let's us make sure they pay a high political price.

Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle told the crowd at the rally, according to an Environment Victoria media release:

“It’s bad enough that we’re still burning dirty brown coal in power stations here in Victoria. But Victoria shouldn’t further damage efforts to tackle climate change by exporting our low quality brown coal to other countries."

“The atmosphere doesn’t care where the pollution comes from.

“Brown coal exports would also be bad news for local landowners, who risk having mining licences slapped on their land. The prospect of new coal mines is a disaster for farming communities and food production, with productive agricultural land at risk of being ripped up for new coal mines” he said.

“A brown coal export industry will be terrible for road congestion and air quality in major towns and cities with coal trains and trucks rumbling around the state from mines to ports.

“Brown coal has had its day. It's time for the state government to abandon its reckless plans for a coal allocation and listen to the majority of Victorians who want clean, safe energy for a clean, safe climate” said Dr Aberle.

Karri Giles from Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council highlighted the impacts on coastal ecosystems of coal export infrastructure. The port of Hastings on Western Port Bay and alternative sites of Corner Inlet (Port Anthony, next to Wilson’s Prom) and Ninety Mile Beach (McGaurans Beach) are being considered for coal export infrastructure.

Industrial shipping adds extra stress to coastal marine environments. Western Port Bay covers 270 square kilometres, is relatively shallow and contains extensive areas of saltmarsh/mangrove and seagrass communities. These ecosystems play an important role in stabilising the coastal system, in nutrient cycling and in providing wildlife habitat. They are also extremely efficient as blue carbon sinks for combatting climate change.

Seagrass meadows are also a keystone species for Corner inlet, driving much of the species diversity of the area according to scientists.

Residents around Hastings protested coal export and expansion of the Port of Hastings in mid November 2013.


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