Australian smokestack occupied for 33 hours

Feature story - July 14, 2008
Over the weekend, four activists from Greenpeace Australia occupied the top of a 140-metre high smokestack for 33 hours enduring near freezing temperatures overnight. They began the two-hour descent yesterday, at Swanbank B coal fired power plant near Brisbane, leaving a message for Australia's leaders - "Go Solar!"- painted on the side of the smoke stack.

Activists abseiled off the side of a 140-metre coal smokestack and painted the message "Go Solar".

Upon descending, Greenpeace energy campaigner Julien Vincent, who was part of the climbing team, said they sent the message that the situation is urgent and we have to act fast on climate change. This means revolutionising the way Australia generates energy.

The activists climbed the stack at dawn on Friday, 11 July and spent a night up the top in near-freezing temperatures.

Why did we do this?

We did this to get the message out that Australia urgently needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions. They must start replacing old and dirty coal fired power stations, like this one at Swanbank, with true clean renewable energy, like solar. It is tragic that Queensland, with the best solar resources in the world, is not a leader in the booming global renewable energy industry.

33 hours for a renewable energy future

The activists' occupation of the 37-year-old Swanbank B coal-fired plant began at 5.30am on Friday 11 July. Of 13 activists who entered the plant yesterday morning, nine were arrested before they started climbing the stack. The remaining four were arrested after 33 hours up top of the major climate changer.

Swanbank B is responsible for more than two million tonnes of carbon emissions a year - that's the annual pollution of 300,000 cars.

The world's best solar resource

If every home in Queensland switched to solar water heating, Swanbank B could be switched off. We want a commitment from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to close Swanbank by the next election.

Australia is way behind many other countries in developing renewable energy. In the next 18 months Spain will roll out enough solar thermal power to replace Swanbank B power station four times over. If Australia makes the right choices it could become a powerhouse for renewable energy manufacturing and technological development, creating thousands of new jobs and investment opportunities.

The Australian Government's climate change advisor, Professor Ross Garnaut, says that if Australians do not successfully combat climate change, theGreat Barrier Reef will die and they will lose 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in tourism dollars each year.

Jobs in coal can be replaced by jobs in renewable energy. There is no way to replace the Great Barrier Reef.

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