Pacific Islanders Prepare to Block World's Largest Coal Port in Traditional Canoes

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

In Australia: Simon Copland, +61 (0) 401 638 950, simon@350.org

Fenton Lutunatabua, +61 (0) 431 337 721, fenton@350.org

In Cairo: Hoda Baraka, +2 01001 840990, hoda@350.org

In NYC: Jamie Henn, 415-890-3350, jamie@350.org

Pacific Islanders Prepare to Block World's Largest Coal Port in Traditional Canoes

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who delivered the civil society speech at UN Climate Summit this September in New York City, issues call for solidarity actions worldwide

NEWCASTLE - Thirty Pacific Islanders will take to the seas in traditional canoes this Thursday (Friday morning EST) to blockade the Newcastle coal port, the largest such port in the world, to protest how the coal industry is fueling climate change and the sea level rise that threatens island nations.

The group of islanders, known as the Pacific Climate Warriors, represent 12 different Pacific island countries. Hundreds of Australians are also expected to join the peaceful direct action in kayaks, canoes, and on shore. Photos and videos of the warriors, as well as a complete press kit, are available here.

On Thursday, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who received a standing ovation for her speech on behalf of civil society at the UN Climate Summit in New York City on September 23, issued the following statement in solidarity with the Pacific Climate Warriors:

“On behalf of my Climate Warrior brothers and sisters from across Oceania, I want to challenge world leaders to put an end to the era of fossil fuels once and for all.

United we will stand up to the fossil fuel industry and world leaders must join this fight in order to stand on the right of history. With our heads raised high the people of the Pacific are not drowning, we are fighting. The biggest threat to our homes is the fossil fuel industry and we will not rest until our very existence is no longer threatened by their greed and endless extraction.”

The full statement is available on the 350.org website here.

Australia is the world’s second largest coal exporter. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rolled back climate protections in Australia, as well as vocally supported the expansion of additional coal mining. At the opening of a new coal mine on Monday, Abbott said “Coal is good for humanity,” a line markedly out of step with other world leaders, scientists, health professionals, and nearly everyone concerned with human well-being. Coal is a leading cause of climate change, along with numerous other environmental and health impacts.

The government’s active support for the coal industry has helped fuel the fossil fuel divestment campaign in Australia, which has chalked up an impressive number of wins over the last year. Most recently, Australian National University and Anglican Church in Australia have committed to divestment.

The Newcastle Coal Port is the largest in the world with a shipping capacity of 211 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). In 2013 the Port reached a record 150.5 million tonnes in coal exports, a 12.5% increase on 2012. There are current plans to increase the capacity of the port by 70 million tonnes. Based on calculations from 2013 export rates, the Pacific Warriors will be blocking the path of approximately 578,100 tonnes of coal that would otherwise be leaving the Port on October 17th.

Speaking at the arrival of the Pacific Warriors Milañ Loeak of the Marshall Islands, daughter of the country’s President Christopher Loeak said: “Climate change is not an issue that the Marshall Islands or Tokelau or any other island in the Pacific should be doing alone because this is a global problem. None of us who have felt the impacts of climate change should continue to suffer through them just to fulfill others' interests. It's wrong and it simply doesn't work that way.”

The Pacific Climate Warriors blockade will commence on Friday morning Australian time. Photos and video, as well as a full report on the action, should be available on Friday morning eastern standard time. The effort is being supported by 350 Australia and 350.org, an international climate campaign.

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350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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