The Rainbow Warrior blocks the State Owned Enterprise Solid Energy's coal ship the Hellenic Sea from leaving the Port of Lyttelton. The 225-metre bulker carries up to 60 thousand tonnes of export coal.
Hours before the coal ship - Hellenic Sea - was due to depart, the captain of
the Rainbow Warrior moved the Greenpeace flagship into position and
set two anchors - effectively blocking the larger coal ship from
Police arrived quickly and boarded the Rainbow Warrior but three
activists managed to slip over the side into a waiting inflatable
boat and speed over to the Helenic Sea. Once there they climbed onto the hull,
attached themselves to the ship and deployed a banner reading:
Target Climate Change.
When fully loaded the Hellenic Sea would carry up to 60 thousand
tonnes of export coal mined on the West Coast by State Owned
Enterprise Solid Energy.
At the same time as the New Zealand Government is so eagerly
trying to show us and the world that it is serious about addressing
climate change, it is allowing Solid Energy to proceed with an
aggressive expansion of both coal mining and exportation.
While it trades on NZ's clean green credentials the Government
is making millions of dollars from Solid Energy peddling coal on
the world market - quite literally stoking the fires of climate
The Government has put some commendable climate policies in
place, such as a renewable electricity target, but the good of this
is undone if we're still making millions of dollars exporting the
problem to other off shore.
is more information on the ship's blog
New Zealand's growing contribution to climate change
Man-made climate change is real and happening fast. Experts say
it's the single biggest threat civilisation has ever faced, and the
first time a single issue has spanned people, species, countries
and continents in this way.
The world's leading climate scientists agree that we have a
window of 5-10 years to make big greenhouse gas reductions if we
want to prevent dramatic and unpredictable changes to our
Top climate scientists have also agreed that emission reductions
of between 25 to 40 per cent are needed in countries like New
Zealand by 2020 to prevent the worst climate impacts.
We may be at the bottom of the world, but we're far from immune
to the consequences of climate change. Our economy is reliant on a
healthy environment and a stable climate, however, our agriculture,
horticulture, tourism and forestry industries are already feeling
the impacts of climate change.
The drought of the late 1990's for example cost our economy $1
billion, and according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry,
this years drought in the Waikato has cost the farming sector over
$1.24 billion while Fonterra estimates the cost to dairy farmers
alone will be over $500 million.
Our Government is eager to show us and the world that it is
serious about addressing climate change. To date the Labour
Government and the Green Party have developed a 10 year ban on new
fossil fuel electricity generation, and set a 90 per cent renewable
energy target for 2025.
The Labour Government has also introduced an Emissions Trading
Scheme (ETS) under which polluting sectors must, over time, cover
the cost of their greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is that if you
charge polluters for their emissions they'll be more likely to take
action to reduce them, for example by shifting investment into
These policies sound good in theory, and they are commendable,
but they are not nearly enough. There are huge gaps in the
emissions trading scheme that will ensure it and all other climate
policy will fail to make the cuts required. (For a more thorough
examination of the flaws in the emissions trading scheme, see www.greenpeace.org.nz/ets-report)
Real solutions - what's missing?
The single most important thing New Zealand could do to address
climate change is set a domestic emissions reduction target.
Setting a target is a simple, logical and critical step in helping
reduce New Zealand emissions and contributing to the prevention of
dangerous climate change globally. It means everyone has something
to aim for and if we know we need to reduce emissions by a certain
amount by a certain time, we can adopt the policies to get us
Greenpeace is calling on all political parties to set a target
of 30 per cent reductions by 2020 for New Zealand's greenhouse gas
emissions. This would bring us into line with more progressive
nations who have already committed to similar targets, and help
ensure we make the cuts that science shows are needed to avoid the
worst climate impacts.
We're also calling for the agricultural sector - which makes up
almost half of all our emissions - to be brought into the ETS in
the next two years, rather than in five years time as the scheme
currently stipulates. If this is not done before 2013, we have no
hope of reaching any effective emissions reduction target.
Coal expansion: Undermining government initiatives
Even with a reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020, and
agriculture brought to account, a huge gap would still exist in New
Zealand's climate change strategy due to an apparent 'go lightly'
approach with the coal industry.
The proposed treatment of coal mining under the ETS for example
is problematic, because 'fugitive' gases from coal mines (that is,
the methane and other greenhouse gases that are released into the
atmosphere as a result of the mining process) are not included in
On top of this, by allowing the expansion of coal mining and
export, the Government is directly undermining its clean green
aspirations and palming the problem off to other countries. In 2007
a total of 4.80 million tonnes of coal was mined by state-owned
enterprise Solid Energy, a growth of 130,000 tonnes compared to
2006. Out of this 4.80 million, almost half (2.19 million tonnes)
And as well as expansion of mining for export, Solid Energy is
actively looking for opportunities to grow the market for coal both
within New Zealand and internationally. This could well lead to
more industrial use of coal in New Zealand. It also demonstrates
the weakness of the government's emissions trading scheme as it
currently stands. Solid Energy clearly does not view the scheme as
a deterrent to coal use
The Government clearly recognises that burning coal contributes
to climate change, but despite banning new fossil fuel electricity
generation at home, it is quite happy for the same coal to be burnt
by someone else, and is doing little to prevent it being burnt by
industrial processors at home for processes other than electricity
It is standing aside while a company solely owned by two of its
own ministers pushes through a business plan to expand dirty coal
mining in New Zealand and increase coal exports - essentially
making any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions achieved by its
new policies and the hard work of average New Zealanders a moot
Climate change is a global issue, and we are not only at risk
from physical changes to the climate within New Zealand, but are
also just as vulnerable to decisions made elsewhere. If coal is
burned offshore, we feel the long term effects at home.
By expanding coal exports we are not only actively encouraging
environmentally destructive practices overseas, but we are also
green-lighting further exploitation of our own natural environment
as more countryside is sacrificed to coal mining operations.
If we are to reduce our emissions and do out bit to ensure the
same reductions happen around the world, we need to be a model
global citizen and work to reduce the amount of coal that is burnt
both at home and abroad.
1. 2007 Solid Energy Annual Report and Accounts (page 6) 2. 2007
Solid Energy Annual Report and Accounts (page 17-18) 3. The ETS
needs to auction rather than give away free emissions permits for
industrial pollution (for example on-site coal burning). The
present proposal is for the sector to receive 90 per cent of its
emissions permits for free. Solid Energy, a state-owned enterprise,
clearly recognises that even with the proposed ETS in place, there
is potential to expand the coal industry in New Zealand.
Live updates on the Rainbow Warrior weblog
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