This blog entry was originally written by Melissa on April 27th, but due to our website migration appears to be from a different date and author.
Greenpeace activists who shut down Hay Point coal terminal in Australia last year have been fined, national news reported. Photo: © Greenpeace / Hamilton
Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced his government will postpone its carbon pollution reduction scheme (known as the CPRS) until the end of 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol is due to expire. Rudd backed away from his biggest election promise, citing parliamentary opposition to the emissions trading scheme (ETS) and "slow global progress" on tackling climate change. The decision, he said, would “provide the Australian government [in 2012] with a better position to assess the level of global action on climate change" - although it is not clear how the level of action taken by other governments will in any way improve Australia's "position" with regard to climate change, which Rudd referred to earlier as the “great moral and economic challenge of our time.”
Australia is one of the highest per capita carbon emitters in the world, and has some of the highest per capita carbon emissions of developed nations. As the world's leading coal exporter, Australia also gets 85 percent of its electricity generation from coal, accounting for 42 percent of the country's CO2 emissions (not including that which is exported).
While the opposition party blamed the Conservatives and the Greens for putting an end to the legislation, Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne urged Mr Rudd not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater" by abandoning plans to put a price on carbon pollution. Dumping CPRS, Milne said, was "not an excuse for dumping carbon pricing altogether, rather it is reason to embrace the only carbon price with a real chance of cross-party support - the Greens' carbon levy proposal.”
Meanwhile, Australian coal producers are having a boon: Reuters reported today Australian coal prices are at an 18 month high, thanks to soaring Chinese demand, and slowed production in Indonesia and South Africa. In India - where the government expects to boost its thermal coal imports by 75 percent to 35 million tonnes in 2010 - traders have already increased their orders from Indonesia as most South African producers have already been booked out this year, traders said. "Prices could still go higher from here. We're beginning to see very strong demand from China and India and we are expecting shortfall of between 10-20 million tonnes in the Asian thermal coal market this year," an analyst at UBS said.
EU tips hat to coal, with CCS as fig-leaf
The UK's Independent reported European countries will be able to use money from a key EU scheme for reducing climate-changing carbon emissions to build new coal-fired power stations. "What these documents show is that billions of pounds raised through a scheme that was meant to help reduce pollution could be handed to massive German energy companies to actually increase pollution by helping them to build the most polluting power stations that exist" said Joss Garman of Greenpeace. "It's exactly like taking money from Weight Watchers and handing it to McDonald's to run advertising campaigns for Big Macs in schools. It's utterly perverse and it requires Gordon Brown to step in and stop this madness."
Funds could be used to provide up to 15 percent of the costs of so-called "highly-efficient CCS-ready power plants" - meaning those power stations with "carbon capture storage" technology - it is said might be developed some time after 2020. Furthermore, under current EU guidelines, values could be used for a coal plant which is only 44 percent efficient - in other words, one that loses 56 per cent of the energy it produces in transmission - putting the term "highly efficient" in highly relative quotation marks.
Indeed, Reuters reported this week the EU's ambition to lead the fight against climate change faces "a setback" as its target of rolling out full-scale CCS plants by 2015 is increasingly seen by experts as "unrealistic". The likelihood of the EU reaching its target is vanishingly small" said David Reiner of Cambridge University. "If they achieved five (plants) by 2015 and 10 by 2020 it would probably be a minor miracle." The plants would take about four years to build, after a permit process of a few years, taking Europe way beyond 2015, by which time global carbon emissions must peak in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. CCS-ready plants will cost about $1 billion more to build than normal coal plants, but no incentives are yet in place. "We will not have (any) CCS plants operating in the EU in 2015," Reuters quoted an anonymous adviser to the EU Commission as saying.
Behind the fig-leaves and rhetoric, the reality: coal is not "sexy"
Greenpeace New Zealand have responded to the country's Economic Development Minister, Gerry Brownlee's claim that "coal is sexy" - his show of support for proposed coal mining in a national park. Actresses Lucy Lawless and Robyn Malcolm poke fun at the ministers remark, rolling around on a pile of coal for fun.
Take action to stop the New Zealand Government from opening up protected conservation areas to mining!
The fight for climate justice goes on
In Australia, AAP reported, 15 Greenpeace activists have been fined (see picture, top) for shutting down a mining depot at Hay Point, Mackay in Queensland, on August 5 2009. In a protest over carbon pollution caused by the expansion of the Australian coal industry, the action "brought one of Australia's busiest coal export terminals to a standstill" while the Esperanza moved in to blockade the port (owned by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance). ABC online quoted Greenpeace chief executive Dr Linda Selvey saying "[w]hile we continue to expand our coal industry in Australia and continue to increase our carbon dioxide emissions, Greenpeace will continue to take action." Fines totaled AUS$6,000 were given out, and the captain, Vladimir Votiacov, still faces court next month "maritime offenses".
No to Nuclear in Turkey
In Turkey, protests were held against the construction of a nuclear power station at Sinop, on the 24th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. There is widespread public opposition to the nuclear plans in the Sinop area, and in solidarity with the protestors, many locals hung black flags from the windows of their homes and businesses yesterday (see the picture from the Turkiye Gazetesi) Five Greenpeace activists were taken into police custody, the Turkish office announced.