SYDNEY - Climate change activists staged a break-in at an Australian power station Monday as a pattern of guerrilla-style raids emerged ahead of a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Sydney.
The protest came as already draconian security measures were boosted a day ahead of the arrival in Sydney of US President George W. Bush, who was expected to be greeted with a flurry of angry protests.
Four environmental activists chained themselves to a coal-carrying conveyor belt at the Loy Yang power station in the southeastern state of Victoria, just a day after a coal ship was targeted in a port near Sydney.
The power station, which provides nearly a third of Victoria's electricity, reduced output for five hours before three men and a woman were cut free by police and arrested, a spokesman said.
A spokeswoman for the activists, Michaela Stubbs, said several more protests were planned against the fossil fuel industry to highlight the need to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
The demonstrations were designed to send a message to the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting in Sydney this week, she told national radio.
"We need to see real action now. Their non-committal, aspirational targets are completely inadequate to stop dangerous climate change," she said.
Global warming is high on the summit agenda, but host Prime Minister John Howard has revealed no attempt will be made to set binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Instead, APEC will likely agree on a long-term "aspirational" goal of cutting emissions to replace the main international treaty on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, when it expires in 2012.
APEC includes the world's three biggest polluters, the United States, China and Russia, while Australia is a major coal exporter.
On Sunday, 12 Greenpeace protesters were arrested and charged after they rode inflatable dinghies out to a ship carrying coal in the port of Newcastle, north of Sydney, and painted an anti-APEC slogan on its hull.
The Australian government has warned of tough action against protesters, and officials Monday defended jittery police who forced three German tourists to delete photographs of a huge security fence erected in Sydney for the summit.
The police action may have been "over the top" but was necessary because demonstrators were reportedly looking for weak points in the fence which they could attack, said New South Wales state Transport Minister John Watkins.
Around 3,500 police, backed by 1,500 counter-terrorism and special forces soldiers, began enforcing a city centre exclusion zone marked by the fence in a security crackdown criticised as excessive by civil libertarians.
Major traffic snarls were predicted as the security crackdown intensifies to cope with the first major anti-US protest scheduled to take place just hours before Bush flies into the harbourside city.
As locals express growing frustration over the fortification of Sydney, Howard blamed the tight security on expected violent protests.
"It's not the fault of the American president, or the Chinese president or the Russian president, it's not the fault of the government. It's the fault of people who threaten violence," he told reporters.
Bush is due in Sydney on Tuesday for a state visit ahead of the summit, and an anti-war group called the Stop Bush Coalition has planned major demonstrations against his presence.
"We are the ones protesting about the violence -- the actual real life violence that is happening today is happening in Iraq. And George Bush and John Howard are responsible for that," said coalition spokesman Alex Bainbridge.
Also on the summit agenda is trade, with APEC leaders set to press for a revival of deadlocked world trade talks by the end of this year, according to a draft statement.
They will urge crucial concessions from the major players in the Doha round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks on breaking down global trade barriers, another issue targeted by the protesters.
"Most of these people are demonstrating broadly against capitalism and economic growth," Howard said. "They hate it. They don't believe in economic growth. They think economic growth is poison to the poor."
Copyright © AFP 2007