Hitting the emergency stop button on coal

Feature story - 15 November, 2007
Before dawn this morning our activists occupied and took peaceful direct action to shut down a coal-fired power plant in Australia - locking onto the conveyor system to prevent coal from feeding the plant.

A Greenpeace activist pushes a button to stop the conveyor belt. It's time to push the emergency switch on coal.

Other activists hung a huge banner reading "Climate change starts here", and a third team climbed on the roof of the main building to paint the message "Coal Kills". 

Energy campaigner John Hepburn, who was on the climb team, talks about why he took action:

The Munmorah coal-fired power station, 110km northeast of Sydney, is the oldest in New South Wales and one of the most inefficient in the country.

"We need to cut carbon emissions right now. It's not complicated," said Hepburn. "If we installed solar hot water heaters in half of NSW's households we could switch off Munmorah and cut 1.5 million tonnes of CO2."

The protest was timed just one week before Australian federal elections, to highlight that both political parties back policies which would see greenhouse emissions increase.

Read - more about the coal plant.  

See - more photos from the action.

Act - to put the heat on Australian politicians.

Meanwhile scientists meet in Spain

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is meeting to finalise the 'Synthesis Report' that brings together the current scientific understanding on climate change and will guide climate change policymaking over the next few years.

"In less than three weeks time, negotiators from governments around the world will meet in Bali to decide the next steps they need to take to protect the climate," said Stephanie Tunmore, one of our policy experts. "The urgency of the science must be front and foremost in their minds and must drive their decision-making. The report being finalised this week is central to that."

The Bali talks were postponed specifically so that this IPCC report could be finished. In the meantime, the IPCC has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which it will receive at a ceremony in Oslo on 10 December (the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol).

Earlier this year, the IPCC concluded that:

-  Most of the observed warming over the past half-century is caused by human activities (greater than 90 per cent certainty).

-  Over the next decades the number of people at risk of water scarcity is likely to rise from tens of millions to billions.

-  Sea level rise, storm surges and river flooding threaten huge numbers of people in the Asian Megadeltas such as the Ganges-Brahmaputra (Bangladesh) and the Zhujiang (Pearl River).

-  Projected reductions in food production capacity in the poorest parts of the world would bring more hunger and misery and undermine achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

-  Renewable energy generally has a positive effect on energy security, employment and on air quality.

The scientists and economists of the IPCC already know how precarious the situation is. But policymakers still aren't acting. To show them how it's done, our activists blockaded the unloading of a 145,000 tonne coal shipment at the port of Tarragona, just south of Barcelona.

Some activists locked onto the unloading equipment while others painted, "El carbon destruye el clima" on the ship and more occupied the coal pile with a giant banner.

Video of the action (in Spanish):

More updates from the action on Greenpeace Spain's website (in Spanish).

In the last two days, dozens of people have been arrested at these actions, but it's only a start. The debate is over, time for the energy revolution to begin.

Demand action

Your government will attend a UN meeting about climate change in December. Our policy experts say it's crunch time for officials, but there are still many politicians just talking and talking. We have less than three weeks to let them know we want action.


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