On Friday, approximately 30 Pacific Climate Warrior activists rode out in canoes and blockaded tankers from entering the Australian Port of Newcastle, the world’s largest coal handling facility. The demonstration was joined by hundreds of on-shore protestors in support of the blockade, with the the Guardian reporting a notable police presence on land and in the water around the blockade.
The blockade was intended as a protest not only to demonstrate the effects of climate change on the warriors’ island nations, but also to demonstrate against Australia’s continued commitment to the expansion of coal power. This past July, the New South Wales Planning Department approved a $2.8 billion (AUS), 70 million metric tonnes per year expansion to the Newcastle site. Last year, the Port of Newcastle shipped 105 million metric tonnes of coal.
The BBC reports that the representatives from the Pacific Climate Warriors came from a variety of pacific island nations including Fiji, Paupa New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tokelau.
350.org’s Koreti Timulau said, “For over 20 years now Pacific Islanders have been negotiating with little effect for countries like Australia to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, and to stop coal, oil and gas exports. Despite the dire implications for its neighbors, Australia has plans to triple its coal exports and become the world’s largest gas exporter.”
While the protest was peaceful, the Guardian reports that when the Pacific Climate Warriors attempted to blockade a tanker leaving the port, police used boats to push the small-craft kayaks out of the way. One protestor claims that law enforcement officials confiscated their paddles following this incident.
In press release from 350.org preceding the protest, Pacific Climate Warrior Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner – who recently appeared as a key speaker at the UN Climate Summit – said, “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.”