Quit Coal campaign completes Thailand tour

Feature story - July 28, 2008
After successful campaigns in New Zealand and the Philippines, the Rainbow Warrior spent 21 days in Thailand as part of the "Quit Coal, Lead the Energy [R]evolution Tour" promoting solutions to climate change. The tour included human banners, port blockades and a visit to the Ministry of Energy.

Greenpeace activists brought hundreds of balloons, symbolising carbon emissions from new coal power plants in Thailand, to the Ministry of Energy in Bangkok.

Thailand's energy revolution should be underway already thanks to a new law that allows residents and villages to generate electricity from wind turbines or other renewable sources and sell surplus electricity back to grid. This should help alleviate poverty and unemployment among Thais as well as generate clean energy.

That sounds sweet - but the reality looks very different as many bureaucratic barriers prevent people from taking up this opportunity. And the lack of a Renewable Energy law that prioritises green electricity over dirty electricity means that investors are gearing up to build coal fired power plants instead of windfarms. Last year even nuclear energy appeared on the agenda.

Our tour started on July 4th when the Rainbow Warrior, sailed into Songkhla. We were launching a Greenpeace petition to the Ministry of Energy demanding they reject coal, nuclear and other fossil-fuel energy systems, a petition that was endorsed by over 1500 residents.

The ship then moved on to Thapsake on July 9th when hundreds of local people joined the crew to form a human banner proclaiming 'Quit Coal' on the beach. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is proposing to build a 4000 MW coal-fired power plant in Thapsakae but local communities are opposing it due to concerns about pollution and climate change. These villagers added their voice to the Greenpeace petition to the Ministry of Energy.

In Rayong province, on July 15th the crew of the Rainbow Warrior staged a peaceful protest against the expansion of a Belgian-owned coal power plant in Mapthaphut, anchoring a few meters off the coal wharf and unfurling banners saying "Quit Coal" and "Coal = Climate Change". The ship was confronted by tug boats and coal plant personnel who fired water cannons as it entered the coal port.

European energy companies such as the Belgium-based Suez Energy International, part of the largest energy consortium in Western Europe are involved with the expansion of the coal industry in Thailand even though the European Union has committed to drastically reduce its own carbon emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2020.

In Bangkok on July 21st we delivered our petition as Greenpeace activists filled the Ministry of Energy headquarters with balloons printed with the word "CO2". The balloons symbolize the carbon emissions from the construction of new coal power plants in Thailand.

Coal is the dirtiest, most carbon intensive of all fossil fuels. Energy from coal now accounts for roughly 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Emitting 29% more carbon per unit of energy than oil and 80% more than gas, coal is one of the leading contributors to climate change. Burning coal also releases massive amounts of toxic substances such as mercury and arsenic which have deadly impacts on human health.

Greenpeace is calling on the Thai government to quit coal and increase energy efficiency. The government needs to adopt legislation that provides investors in renewable energy with stable and predictable returns and guarantee priority access to the grid for renewable generators. Thailand doesn't need coal, it needs an Energy Revolution.

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