Quit coal, save the climate! 2008 campaign highlights

Feature story - December 22, 2008
Quit coal – save the climate. It's a simple message, but it's also an urgent one. Coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels is the single greatest contributor to the climate crisis. In 2008, we've been taking the "quit coal" message across the world, the campaign has been spearheaded by our flagship the Rainbow Warrior.

Coal fired power stations are the single greatest cause of climate change.

From landmark court rulings, to cancellation of plans for coal-fired plants, to senior politicians joining our call, we've made it clear that if we are to get serious about tackling climate change, then the world needs to quit its addiction to coal.

From New Zealand to Denmark we've occupied coal mines and power plants, blockaded coal cargo ships and carriers, and branded all things coal as serial climate offenders - this includes a valiant effort by our Australian office who painted 20 coal cargo ships in one go.

We've shown clean energy alternatives along the way

We've always shown the clean energy alternatives that are possible along the way; even planting 4000 windmills on a proposed coal-fired power plant site in Belgium. And in the EU and New Zealand we have seen some good movement on renewable energy targets.

Our Energy [R]evolution scenario shows how renewable energy, combined with greater energy efficiency, can cut global CO2 emissions by 50 percent, and deliver half the world's energy needs by 2050. It quickly convinced an energy company to scrap its plans for a new coal-fired plant in Greece, where our "quit coal" campaign also led to Greece's main opposition parties agreeing on board the Rainbow Warrior to reject coal if they get into power next year. Meanwhile coal plants in the Netherlands have been scrapped in 2008 too.

In Southeast Asia senior politicians in the Philippines were moved by the "quit coal" tour to publicly support our demands, including filing resolution in the Senate calling for the Philippines to quit coal and embrace a clean energy future. Later in the year the Senate approved a progressive Renewable Energy bill, something that had been pending for 18 years, and that Greenpeace Southeast Asia had been actively campaigning for.

The  Kingsnorth Six and the true cost of coal

We've had court cases against us thrown out in Italy, and in September our UK office made history when they were found "not guilty" of causing criminal damage to the smokestack of the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station they painted in 2007. Their defence was simple, they had "lawful excuse" because they were acting to protect property around the world "in immediate need of protection" from the impacts of climate change, caused in part by the burning of coal. They won the case, featured as one of the New York Times' big ideas of 2008.

Meanwhile we've revealed the true cost of coal - showing how its market price ignores not just the costs of climate change, but also displacement, black lung disease, acid rain, mining accidents, smog pollution, reduced agricultural yields, water pollution and much, much more. Our report highlighting these impacts from Colombia to India to the United States was released in November. 

The Climate Rescue Station and Poznan 

 In December, with the ship tour still active, we set up a Climate Rescue Station on the edge of an open pit coal mine in Konin, Poland. At the centre of the rescue station we built a four-storey version of the Earth that housed photographic exhibitions, conferences, open days and meetings with journalists from across the world. The rescue station's position on the edge of the mine depicted how coal has driven our planet to the edge. 

The rescue station operated in the run up to and through crucial UN climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland.

Our activists joined hundreds of local people including town mayors, threatened by the expansion of the pit mine, to call for an energy revolution in Poland. Our German and Czech Republic teams held solidarity actions over the course of the month. These countries, alongside Poland are home to the notorious "black triangle" - one of the most heavily polluted areas on Earth, thanks to coal.

Back in Poland a team of climbers in Poland occupied the smokestack of the Pątnów coal-fired power plant for three days as government ministers from across the world debated the future of the planet at the nearby Poznan negotiations. Simultaneous to that action, the Rainbow Warrior was blocking a coal shipment in Denmark, where next year the world's most important climate negotiations ever will take place.

The road to Copenhagen

So as 2008 wraps up, we thought we would bring you a slideshow of highlights from the past year. Of course, we still have a long way to go. That's why in 2009 we will ramp up the pressure - ensuring that the "quit coal" message gets through to governments meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009. Watch this space.

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