Pacific protest: Australians walk-on to Newcastle coal port in solidarity


While Tony Abbot, John Key and leaders from Pacific nations are locked in a leaders retreat for the Pacific Islands Forum today, a group of 30 Australians have walked onto the site of the world’s biggest coal port in Newcastle in solidarity with Smaller Island States in the Pacific, who have called for a moratorium on new coal mines and a global climate agreement that can keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees in a fight for their very survival.

The protesters have entered the site of the Carrington Coal Terminal in Newcastle, part of the world’s biggest coal exporting port. Every year, coal exports from Newcastle produce over 380 million tonnes of greenhouse gases when burnt, and plans are underway to continue expanding coal export volumes through the port with a controversial new terminal.

The protesters have brought banners and messages of support for Pacific Smaller Island leaders. The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders retreat is underway today in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. In the lead up to the meeting there has been significant momentum for a resolution on climate change that can ensure the survival of the Smaller Island States of the Pacific, like Kiribati and Tuvalu.

On Friday, the Pacific Islands Development Forum, of which Australia and New Zealand are not members issued the Suva Declaration, calling for the Paris climate summit to adopt a legally binding agreement to limit global average temperature increase to below 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels. The Declaration also called for support for loss and damage suffered by developing countries from the effects of climate change, and “a new global dialogue on the implementation of an international moratorium on the development and expansion of fossil fuel extracting industries, particularly the construction of new coal mines.”

On Monday, the Pacific Smaller Island States followed this declaration with a call of their own reiterating the need to keep warming below 1.5⁰C and calling for a global moratorium on all new coal mines.

Fee Mozeley, who is participating in today’s protest said,

“We wanted to send a message to the Pacific leaders at the meeting that Australians are behind them, and we, too, want our Government and the Pacific Islands Forum to take action that will ensure their survival. That starts with a global agreement to keep warming below 1.5⁰C and a global moratorium on new coal mines.

“The Pacific Smaller Island States are in an impossible situation. There is a leadership vacuum in Australia when it comes to facing up to the impact our coal industry is having on the world and our neighbours in the Pacific.”

Fenton Lutunatabua, from Fiji, spokesperson for Pacific said:

“Climate change will affect us all. We welcome the solidarity from ordinary Australians in our calls for a response to climate change and coal that is focused on ensuring the survival of us all and not just the coal industry. The action in Newcastle today shows that we are all in this together. By adopting a moratorium on new coal mines we can chart a path forward that not only supports the Smaller Island States but also those communities impacted by coal mines.”

Mozeley concluded:

“The Smaller Island States have made themselves clear and any failure of the Forum communique to reflect that position will be seen for what it is - Australia and New Zealand again bullying the Pacific for their own political interest. Tony Abbott must agree today to fight for the future of the Smaller Island States, but whilst ever our Government fails to show leadership and compassion on this front, we will take action to stop coal ourselves.”