Newcastle is situated about 160 km north of Sydney and handles the bulk of Australia's coal exports.
The Newcastle Port Authority cancelled all shipping movements for theday, to avoid confrontation with the protest fleet. The fleet wascomposed of a motley collection of kayaks, skiffs, barges and improvised floating objects.
The protest was organised by Rising Tide, a local environmental groupcampaigning to prevent global warming, as a result of CO2 emissionsfrom burning coal.
"Coal exports are Australia's single biggest driver of climate change, eclipsing all of the greenhouse pollution we make here at home. They are also our fastest growing contribution to climate change with all of Australia's coal ports undergoing massive expansions." said RisingTide Spokesperson Carly Phillips.
"If the Rudd Government was serious about reducing Australia's climateimpact it would immediately put a stop to the expansion of the coal industry and put in place plans to phase it out and replace it with jobs in renewable energy."
"250,000 tonnes of coal a day passes through Newcastle, which becomes more than half a million tonnes of greenhouse pollution, when burnt. Coal is fuelling global climate change."
Rising Tide is particularly concerned at the ongoing expansion of the Newcastle port, that will result in a doubling of coal exports from there. The current capacity of the port is just over 100 million tonnes per year.
The NSW state government is keen to see coal exports expand, as it's a major revenue earner, bringing in $6.2 billion in exports last year.
The federal Labor government has committed Australia to a modest 5% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2020 and is unlikely to seriously curb coal production in the foreseeable future.
24th March 2009