World Leaders block shipment of Arctic coal at the top of the world

Press release - 2 October, 2009
Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and other world leaders today finally took action on climate change by preventing a shipment of coal from being loaded onto a transport ship from a mine in Svalbard, 1400 km from the North Pole. The activist heads of state unfurled a banner reading ‘Coal-fired Arctic meltdown’.


"Can we quit coal? Yes we can!" said President Barack Obama. "I and my colleagues are fired up and ready to go to Copenhagen, where we're going to help the world kick its carbon habit for good."

"I'm putting my body on the line to stop climate change," added Chancellor Angela Merkel. "The least my fellow leaders can do now is put money on the table to unlock negotiations for a deal in Copenhagen." (1)

The action is being taken to prevent the 70,000 tonne coal transport ship MV Pascha from bringing its climate-changing cargo to Europe. The activists are underlining their personal commitment to securing a fair, ambitious and binding agreement in Copenhagen in December.

The Greenpeace vessel, Arctic Sunrise, has just completed a three-month expedition examining the impacts of climate change in the Arctic.  The ship hosted independent science teams whose research will help explain why Arctic sea-ice and Greenland's glaciers are melting even faster than climate models predicted. Specifically, scientists examined the complex interaction between ocean temperatures and glacial melt in northwest, southeast and northeast Greenland, and the melt rate of pressure ridges, a feature of Arctic sea-ice that is fast disappearing due to climate change.

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than anyone expected," said Lindsay Keenan, Greenpeace Nordic climate campaigner. "Now is the time to take action. Sea-level rise will impact the homes of at least one in ten people on the planet this century. This coal-fired madness has to stop." (2) 

Coal burning is the greatest threat to our climate, accounting for over 40% of all fossil fuel related CO2 emissions, making it the largest single source. CO2 pollution by coal is projected to increase 60% by 2030. Greenpeace is calling for an energy revolution to phase out coal fired power plants by 2050.

The Svea Nord mine in Svalbard produces more than 2 million tonnes of coal annually, which is exported to Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal. It is operated by Norwegian state owned company Store Norske, which is already planning to open yet another coal mine in the same area as the current mine is running out of coal. The Norwegian Parliament will decide on this proposal during 2010. Greenpeace is calling on the Norwegian government to phase out the mining of coal on Svalbard and provide a just transition for the workforce.

Sadly, in the real world the actions of world leaders - including the real Obama and Merkel - fall far short of their rhetoric. They have all failed to take real action to deal with the coal industry.

In 66 days, the countries of the world will come together to negotiate a new climate treaty. The world needs them to take real action by personally committing to attending the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, and to delivering a fair, ambitious and binding deal to avert catastrophic climate change. (3)

Other contacts: Lindsay Keenan, Greenpeace Nordic Climate and Energy campaigner, on board the Arctic Sunrise:
+46 703012186

Joris Thijssen, Climate and Energy campaigner Greenpeace International
+31 646 162031

Szabina Mozes, Greenpeace International Communications
+43 664 61 26725

Photo and video contacts: John Novis, Greenpeace International Head of Photography +86 139 1062 4914 / 44 (0) 7801 615 889

Michael Nagasaka, Greenpeace International Video Producer
+44 7533 625 409

Notes: [1] The activists are supporting Greenpeace’s call for a commitment of $140bn a year from developed nations to fund adaption, mitigation and forest protection measures in developing nations.

[2] The world can do without coal. The Greenpeace energy revolution scenario shows how our societies can be powered without coal, using clean energy sources like wind and solar instead. We can and must be smarter with energy and use it in a more efficient way. Last month Greenpeace calculated that its energy revolution scenario is actually a green new deal. It will create 2.7 million more jobs world wide by 2030 than the business as usual scenarios based on fossil fuels.

[3] At Copenhagen Greenpeace demands a fair, binding and ambitious deal that

• Emissions cuts of at least 40% by 2020 from the developed world

• An end to tropical deforestation by 2015

• $140 billion a year to support adaption, mitigation and forest protection in the developing world