April 21, 2024

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Over 100 activists were arrested after blocking the world’s largest coal port in Australia

In Australia, more than 100 activists have been arrested in Newcastle, disrupting coal shipments from the world’s largest coal port. The protest, organised by Rising Tide, involved hundreds of participants swimming or using kayaks to occupy the shipping lane of the Port of Newcastle, located around 170km from Sydney. This demonstration aimed to draw attention to climate inaction and, according to activists, prevented over 500,000 metric tonnes of coal from leaving the country.

The Port of Newcastle is a critical terminal for coal shipments, and Australia is the world’s second-largest coal exporter, heavily dependent on fossil fuels for its electricity needs. Despite police approval for the 30-hour blockade, dozens of protesters remained in the water after the designated protest period, leading to 109 arrests, including 97-year-old activist Alan Stuart. Stuart expressed his motivation, citing a duty to address the consequences of climate change for future generations.

Rising Tide, the organising group, referred to the action as the “biggest act of civil disobedience for climate in Australia’s history.” The protest took place just ahead of COP28, the annual global climate change summit in Dubai, emphasising the urgency and global nature of climate activism.

Australia has faced criticism for being a climate laggard, but under Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, the government committed to reducing emissions by 43% by 2030. While this represents progress from previous targets, activists argue that youth voices are consistently overlooked, prompting their engagement in civil disobedience against the fossil fuel industry. Rising Tide specifically calls for taxing thermal coal exports and cancelling new fossil fuel projects as essential steps towards climate action.

The protests underscore the ongoing tension between environmental activists and governments globally, especially in nations heavily reliant on industries that contribute to climate change.