At sunrise, the six activists left the Rainbow Warrior on inflatable boats and drew up alongside the MV Meister, a ship carrying thermal coal loaded at Abbot point in Queensland. Using steel ladders, they climbed the side of the ship and are now sitting at the bow.
Greenpeace boarded the ship just after it left the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The six activists come from five countries in the Asia Pacific region where Greenpeace is campaigning to end the age of coal: Australia, India, the US, China, and New Zealand.
Australia's coal exports are the nation’s greatest contribution to climate change and plans are underway to roughly double the volume of coal we export. Yet every tonne of coal that is exported will return to us as climate change: bushfires, heatwaves and drought.
“Our scientists and political leaders have all said climate change is a problem that we must address now,” said Greenpeace senior climate campaigner Dr Georgina Woods, “yet our coal exports continue to grow.”
India remains a prime destination for these coal exports: that’s why Arpana Udupa, Climate and Energy Campaigner from Greenpeace India joined today’s action.
“India needs to look beyond coal – whether it comes from Australia or India,” said Ms Udupa. “Renewable energy and energy efficiency has far more to offer my country that does Australia’s coal. With 72% of India’s 1.2 billion population vulnerable to climate change, it is not in India’s interest for the Great Barrier Reef to be destroyed and climate change sped up by Australia’s coal exports.”
US activist Harmony Lambert, joined the action to highlight the global nature of both the industry and the threat, saying: “The coal industry has directly impacted communities in the US through mountaintop removal, coal pollution and dangerous waste storage sites, but the burning of coal is not just a local issue,” said Ms Lambert.
“Coal is the largest contributor to climate change around the world - both the United States and Australia needs to stop exports of this dangerous commodity.”
Greenpeace has tried every available means to stop the expansion of dangerous coal exports (1). One new coal terminal is under construction in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area; another was approved in October last year, and a third is seeking approval now.
“In the clear absence of political leadership to address this problem, Greenpeace is stepping in to take immediate and peaceful action. Australia’s coal export boom cannot be allowed to continue.”
According to research commissioned by Greenpeace (2), Australia's coal export expansion is the second biggest of fourteen proposed fossil fuel enterprises that will push the world beyond agreed global warming limits.
“We cannot pretend Australia is playing its part to avoid dangerous climate change if these shipments continue.”
The coal export expansion planned for Queensland would threaten the Great Barrier Reef through dredging, coastal constructions and increased shipping. Moreover, coral reefs around the world are unlikely to survive if global temperatures increase by 1.5 degrees (3).
“Right now, we’re heading decisively for four degrees of warming,” said Dr Woods. “If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef, it's time to end the of age of coal.”
Further information contact Elsa Evers 0438 204 041
or Cindy Baxter: 0402 588 170
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(1) See history of the last three years of bureaucratic and political failure to protect the Reef and stop the expansion of Australian coal here
(2) “Point of No Return” – Greenpeace International, February 2013
(3) Latest science on climate change and the reef