Greenpeace occupies coal ship; calls for real action on climate change

Press release - March 25, 2008
Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior has blocked a shipment of export coal from leaving the Port of Lyttelton.

Crew on Solid Energy's coal ship, the Hellenic Sea, power-hose Greenpeace activists - 2008

This is the first time the Rainbow Warrior has been used to block another ship in New Zealand.

It has anchored in front of 225-metre bulker the Hellenic Sea, which carries up to 60 thousand tonnes of export coal from State Owned Enterprise Solid Energy.

"We're up here today to demonstrate to New Zealanders that climate change is not solved and to show the world that New Zealand's two main political parties are not doing enough to help solve it," said Greenpeace Campaign Director Carmen Gravatt from onboard the Warrior.

Greenpeace is calling on the New Zealand Government to get serious on climate change, including putting a cap on coal exports, halting the expansion of coal mining and strengthening the emissions trading scheme (ETS) so it discourages the burning of coal in New Zealand (1).

"We are fast running out of time to act on climate change, yet New Zealand continues to mine, export and burn coal in gross quantities, and there are plans to expand all three activities (2)," said Ms Gravatt.

"The New Zealand Government seems more concerned with climate policies that look good rather than ones that actually solve the problem.

"Not only are we failing domestically, with skyrocketing emissions and an ETS that's failing to deter domestic coal use, but we're also upping our contribution to the global problem by allowing the expansion of coal exports.

"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 exporting the problem to other countries.

"It is, as the Climate Change Minister himself pointed out this week, not called "global" warming for nothing. Emissions anywhere in the world affect us all, and we shouldn't be adding to them.

"As a developed country we should be taking a leadership role on this issue and advocating for a global switch to cleaner technology; not plying other countries with climate-killing coal."

Greenpeace says as well as a cap on coal exports and a halt to the expansion of coal mining in New Zealand, every political party needs to set a domestic emissions reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020 (3) to ensure New Zealand actually reduces its emissions.

Contact: Carmen Gravatt - Campaign Director on the Rainbow Warrior - 021 302251

Kathy Cumming  - Communications onboard the Rainbow Warrior - 021 495216

High-resolution images and video of the activity will be available free of charge at: http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/media

(Multiple images can be added to the 'lightbox' and downloaded as a

single zip file).

Images and video contact: Greg McNevin - (based in Auckland office) - 021577556

(1)    New Zealand's largest coal exporter, State Owned Enterprise Solid Energy, is aggressively trying to expand the domestic market for coal in New Zealand. Its 2007 Annual Report (p17) details plans to convert more industrial users from gas to coal. Clearly the government's emissions trading scheme is no deterrent, if Solid Energy thinks that even with a price on emissions from industrial coal burning under the scheme, there will continue to be demand for coal to burn in NZ. 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.

(2)    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) was exported. (see 2007 Solid Energy Annual Report and Accounts - page 6) 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. (see 2007 Solid Energy Annual Report and Accounts - page 17-18) 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.

(3)    Emission reduction targets in themselves don't stop climate change. They do however set the scene for what needs to be achieved, and give a clear signal to policy makers that they should formulate policies capable of achieving the target set. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified a range of 25-40% reductions by 2020 for developed countries like New Zealand as necessary in order to put the world on track to avoid climate catastrophe. Greenpeace is calling for the New Zealand Government and all political parties to set an emissions reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020. Countries that are serious about taking a leadership position on climate change have set national targets. The UK has set a target of 20% by 2010 - this is above and beyond its Kyoto commitment. It is expected to achieve a reduction of almost 17% as a result. Germany has a domestic target of 40% reductions from 1990 levels by 2020, which it's on track to meet. Even Australia, a former laggard when it comes to climate, now has a long term overall emission reduction target. Sweden recently agreed on an emission reduction range of 75-90% by 2050.  The National Party has set a policy of 50 per cent emission reductions by 2050. This is not nearly enough. By 2050 we need to have reduced our emissions by a minimum of 80 per cent.  

For a more thorough examination of the Emissions Trading Scheme see www.greenpeace.org.nz/ets-report

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