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Byron Shire
February 23, 2024

109 climate action activist arrests at Newcastle Port as G20 countries fail to reduce emissions and global warming continues

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Climate action protesters at the 12th Rising Tide flotilla blockade of the Newcastle Port, November 2023 PIC Rising Tide FB

Police say they’ve charged more than a hundred protesters at the Rising Tide Newcastle Port blockade after three days of demonstrations.

The protesters had police permission and approval from the state’s police minister for 30 hours of peaceful activism over the weekend, starting Friday.

But the ‘Form 1 relating to an authorised assembly in the Port of Newcastle’ expired at 4pm Sunday and police on Monday morning said they would allege in court some protesters deliberately entered the harbour channel afterward, despite police warnings and directions.

Officers reported arresting 109 people including 49 males and 60 females for the offence of operating a vessel ‘so as to interfere with others use of waters’.

The protesters ‘were removed’ from the harbour by 5.30pm Sunday, police said, with ‘normal harbour functions’ resuming.

The weekend blockade included a group of flood-impacted Northern Rivers residents, who were photographed paddling out on kayaks and flying the iconic ‘Lovemore’ red heart that has come to symbolise the recent flooding crisis in Lismore and surrounds.

Protesters follow UN call for disruption on climate change

Members of a Northern Rivers group of 2022 disaster survivors to attend the 2023 Rising Tide Newcastle Port blockade. PIC supplied

Most functions of the Newcastle Port are in support of Australia’s coal mining industry, prompting its focus for regular climate activist demonstrations in recent years.

The port is known to be the largest coal exporting port in the world in terms of coal output.

A media release from Rising Tide protesters last week included a quote from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has repeatedly called on world leaders to take climate change seriously and enact the significant changes needed in industry and law to reduce global warming and mitigate impacts.

Mr Guterres was quoted saying 2023 was a year of reckoning.

‘It must be a year of game-changing climate action,’ the quote read, ‘we need disruption to end the destruction’.

‘No more baby steps. No more excuses. No more greenwashing. No more bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry and its enablers.’

Flood-impacted Brunswick Heads resident Valerie Thompson was later quoted saying she stood with Mr Guterres.

‘We are wearing red to signal we are already living in a climate emergency,’ Ms Thompson said, ‘we have experienced firsthand what happens when we let fossil-fuel interests dictate government energy policy’.

International government failures

The latest report from the United Nations Environment Program released last week shows none of the world’s most advanced economies, referred to collectively as the G20 and including Australia, have reduced emissions in line with their stated targets.

The lack of progress is despite a pledge from Australia, the United States, Canada and several other nations at last year’s annual UN climate summit to ‘lead by example and achieve net zero emissions across their own government operations’.

The pledge, part of an International Net Zero Government Initiative launched at the COP27 summit, led Australian Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher to announce $23 million investment in transitions towards renewable energy across the country’s public services.

‘We believe that the Australian Public Service can set the benchmark on emission reductions and inspire other major workplaces to follow suit,’ Minister Gallagher said at the time.

Most of the funding, $15.9 million, was to help achieve a 75% low emissions vehicle target for the Commonwealth Fleet by 2025 for new passenger vehicle purchases and leases.

Another $7.1 million was to help the Australian Public Services improve energy efficiency at government properties, including by increasing renewable energy supply; using government spending power to support energy projects through the Buy Australian Plan; and re-instating public reporting of government emissions, a practice abandoned under the previous coalition-led federal government.

But as scientists warn this year is expected to be the hottest on record, on average, world-wide, it’s clear government focus needs to be economy-wide.

Have your say on Australia’s renewable energy investment

Last week’s UNEP report comes shortly after Australian Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ acknowledgement of the country’s unlikelihood to meet a goal of 82% renewable energy use by 2030 without major investment.

Mr Chalmers earlier this month announced an inaugural ‘Statement of Expectations’ for the national Productivity Commission with energy transition a clear priority.

Meanwhile, public submissions to the government’s subsequently released Sustainable Finance Strategy are due by end of day 01 December.

Mr Chalmers says the strategy is all about mobilising the significant private capital required to achieve net zero and helping Australia realise ‘its ambition to become a renewable energy superpower’.

He described the consultation paper in a media release on 02 November as outlining proposals under three key priority areas: greater transparency on climate and sustainability, strengthening financial system capabilities and advancing Australia’s leadership and engagement on sustainability.

‘It proposes a wide range of tools and policies and builds on substantial work already underway,’ Mr Chalmers said, ‘including the introduction of standardised, internationally‑aligned mandatory climate disclosure requirements and our sovereign green bond program’.

Australia to send assistant minister to upcoming UN climate summit

Labor Senator Jenny McAllister (left), also Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy, is to represent Australia at COP28, where she will help lead discussions on adaptation that will impact future generations. PIC FB

This year’s UN climate summit, COP 28, is due to start in Dubai on 30 November.

Australia’s official representative is to be Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy Senator Jenny McAllister.

The Assistant Minister is to co-facilitate consultations on reaching climate adaptation outcomes with Chile’s Minister for the Environment, Maisa Rojas, according to a statement from Ms McAllister and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen in September.

The ministers said a key focus of the negotiations would be development of a framework to advance the Global Goal on Adaptation and help track progress against the Paris Agreement’s goal to strengthen resilience to climate change.

Activists call for 75% tax on fossil fuel exporters

Rising Tide 2023 Newcastle Port blockade PIC supplied

Back in Newcastle, Australia, activists at the 12th flotilla port blockade over the weekend were demanding a ban on new coal projects and 75% taxes on fossil fuel export profits to help fund community and industrial transitions towards renewable energy.

‘The tax raised on fossil fuel export profits will also be used to look after workers affected in the changeover,’ the Rising Tide media release stated, and to help pay for ‘climate loss and damage’.

The reference to climate loss and damage is another echo of UN calls, with a large focus of COP27 being on compensation for developing countries suffering from climate change impacts thanks to more advanced countries’ activities.

More than 3,000 people were expected to take part in the Rising Tide blockade, which in previous years has included blockades of rail lines to the port.

Activists on the Northern Rivers said one of the protesters included Lismore resident and mother to a nine-year-old daughter, Cate.

Cate, whose last name was withheld, was described as having five of her daughter’s years impacted by climate emergencies, prompting her to set up a local volunteer rescue organisation called CCR aimed at helping others impacted by climate emergencies.

97-year-old reverend arrested acting for ‘future generations’

97-year-old Reverend Alan Stuart was arrested protesting for climate action PIC Rising Tide FB

Of the more than 100 arrests reported by police, officers said two men, aged 23 and 65, were refused bail and were due to appear at Newcastle Local Court today.

Rising Tide on social media identified the men as Isaac and John respectively, with last names withheld.

Earlier the activists said police had arrested 97-year-old Reverend Alan Stuart.

Father Stuart was quoted saying he was protesting for his grandchildren and future generations because he didn’t want ‘to leave them a world full of increasingly severe and frequent climate disasters’.

Other adults arrested were to face court on Thursday 11 January 2024 and the minors were released, to be dealt with separately under the state’s Young Offenders Act, police said.

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  1. Such a shame the cops couldn’t catch the whole bloody lot, the collective IQ would amount to that of a billygoat. Beats me how they found the harbour let alone navigate water craft. The revenue from every ship they disrupted would pay for their dole for a life time, so so small minded and economically illiterate they are. Australia is still laughing at you all, good work fools.

    • Here’s a thought Gregrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. How about, instead of just spraying meaningless insults, you try in just simple grounded language, to make a convincing cogent argument. Or is this just another little joke.

      I can’t include a link here but Google “I got arrested at 97 for my grandkids. They were tired of asking nicely” in the SMH, to gain some insight into the sorts of people you have summarily denigrated here.

    • Gregrrrrrrrrrrrrr, you need to sharpen up – “The revenue from every ship…”, that revenue of your ship goes to a coal company, that is likely overseas owned and pays little tax.

  2. I was one of the people arrested, no we aren’t all on the doll. We are people from all walks of life ages ranging from 15-97. I think you will find the people who attended are very intelligent and know exactly what is happening to our climate. We know our Government is fuelling the climate crisis by approving new coal and gas projects while green washing us all into thinking they are taking the necessary action to curb emissions.

    So before you start judging and mouthing off peaceful protesters maybe you should educate yourself first cause your making a fool of yourself @Gregrrrrrrrr


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