Rising Tide

Environmentalists block Newcastle port, demanding rejection of new coal projects and 75% tax for clean energy transition

Environmental activists from Rising Tide blocked the Port of Newcastle, the world’s largest coal port, over the weekend demanding action on climate change and rejecting new coal projects.

Image credit: Rising Tide

The blockade, which commenced at 10 am on Saturday, has gathered over a thousand of individuals who joined in kayaks, surfboards, and pontoons risking arrest by remaining in the crucial shipping channel.

Rising Tide organizer and spokesperson, Alexa Stuart, underscored the determination of the diverse group, ranging from a 15-year-old to a 97-year-old, stating, “If the Government will not take action on climate change, the people will use civil disobedience. We wish we did not have to do this, but the Albanese Government needs to understand we are serious.”

Stuart emphasized their demand for the Albanese government to reject new coal projects and implement a 75% tax on coal export profits to facilitate a transition away from fossil fuels.

“Until these conditions are met, we will continue to disrupt the fossil fuel industry because the climate crisis is impacting us all,” she added.

Among the activists is Reverend Alan Stuart, a 97-year-old Uniting Church minister and Newcastle local, who said: “I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations because I don’t want to leave them a world full of increasingly severe and frequent climate disasters.”

Even a coal miner, Grant Howard, has joined the blockade, challenging stereotypes. Howard, who traveled from Queensland coal fields, expressed his commitment to environmental action, saying, “I want coal miners to be part of that conversation. This is an opportunity for coal companies to materially support the communities that have helped make their massive profits before they wind down.”

A spokesperson for the Port of Newcastle conveyed on Saturday that, due to the significant number of people in the shipping channel, all shipping movements had been suspended out of safety concerns. This suspension applied universally, irrespective of the type of cargo being transported or the intended loading activities.

Groups of protesters took turns paddling into Newcastle Port’s shipping lane. However, as 4 pm on Sunday passed and police permission for the protest expired, numerous protesters continued to stay in the water, anticipating imminent arrests.

The 97-year-old minister was the over 80 individuals arrested by the police and taken into custody as the blockade extended beyond a previously agreed-upon deadline.

Shifting its focus toward an accelerated shift to renewables, the Albanese government declared on Thursday its intention to broaden the investment scheme for clean energy projects. Despite this commitment, the government, in office since May, has granted approval for four new coal mines or expansions, raising questions about the coherence of its environmental policies.

A vital revenue stream for the NSW government, coal royalties contributed approximately $3.5 billion in the fiscal year ending June 2022. Starting from July, the state’s share of coal sales will see a 2.6 percentage point increase, generating an additional $2.3 billion over the initial three-year period, according to the Associated Press.

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Exporting an average of 165 million metric tons of coal annually, Port of Newcastle has started 2022 powered by 100% renewable energy power, having decarbonized its operations to deliver upon its sustainability commitments set in 2020.

Under its ESG Strategy, the port has committed to becoming net zero by 2040.