C: Rising Tide

They are calling it the largest civil disobedience climate protest in the history of Australia.

This weekend, thousands of activists, young and old, from across the country descended on the world’s largest coal port at Muloobinba (Newcastle), on Awabakal and Worimi land and water.

The organizers labeled it a family-friendly event with live music and speeches. The plan also included blockading the plant by a sea blockage by kayak, boat, or even surfboard. It was the first time a blockage was planned overnight.

The protest was a huge success. In the end, some three thousand people prevented coal ships leaving for thirty-two hours and stopped half a million tonnes of coal from being exported.

Some tweets from the action:

In total, one hundred people were arrested, including 97 year old Reverend Alan Stuart who said: “I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations.” He became the oldest person ever to be arrested in Australia.

Another person protesting was Anjali Beams, a 17-year-old school student from Adelaide who said the country’s “decision-makers have consistently ignored young people’s voices.” Anjali told the BBC: “I will not be complicit in letting my future get sold away by the fossil fuel industry for their profit.”

The protestors have some prominent backers. Australian Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said he planned to be on the blockade last weekend. “Now we need to embrace the importance of protest and civil disobedience. We must come together and fight back,” he said.

There is more from Bandt on Twitter:

The demonstrators are demanding that our governments stop allowing new coal projects, and instead tax fossil fuel export profits at 75% to fund community and industrial transition, and pay for climate loss and damage.

You can see why the Newcastle port is being targeted. According to some estimates, coal exported through Newcastle last year was equal to 77% of all Australian domestic emissions. Australia is the fifth-biggest producer of coal.

The Japanese Government and corporate officials have been putting pressure on the Australian Government to continue exporting fossil fuels to the island nation, which imports roughly 70 of its coal from Australia and 40% of its LNG. Japan has also been lobbying Australia hard for a major new gas export development to be given so-called “special treatment” under the country’s revamped emissions reduction policy.

The blockade is taking place amid increasing alarm over the scale and pace of our climate emergency.

Earlier this month, Australia’s Climate Council outlined how climate change was affecting the country’s oceans. According to the Council, “Marine heatwaves have already caused mass deaths of key species along 45 percent of Australia’s coastline.”

The Great Barrier reef has already suffered mass bleaching four times since 2016. And “Parts of the ocean could reach a near-permanent heatwave state by the end of this century, unless urgent action is taken to reduce fossil fuel emissions.”

On a global scale, scientists have warned that we have already passed 2 degrees of warming:

And unless we radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we are increasingly looking at 3 degrees this century.

Despite our climate emergency, Australia continues to export vast amounts of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. In December last year, the Australia Institute highlighted that the country’s coal export revenue had reached $112 billion in 2021-22, an increase on the previous year of $73b or 186 percent.

There are some small positive signs. Finally, after a lost decade, Australia is taking some steps on climate action, having passed an emissions reduction bill earlier in the year. This will compel the country’s biggest industrial polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 percent by 2030.

So Australia’s changing climate landscape and intensifying opposition to fossil fuel exports poses huge risks to fossil fuel importers like Japan. The shifting political landscape in Australia reiterates the need for Japan to break its addiction on imported coal and shift rapidly to renewable energy instead.

Over the weekend, a message of solidarity was read out from the Fossil Free Japan Coalition. It said they “stood in solidarity” with those protesting, praising “your commitment to taking peaceful civil disobedience action for climate justice is an inspiration to us all.”

The Fossil Free Coalition added: “Together, we can work towards a fossil-free future that respects our planet, our environment, and future generations.”

One Comment

  • Great to see that somebody cares enough to get off their rear ends, and do something of extreme value, to prolong the life of our PLANET our HOME. Bravo Australia’s real people.

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