This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on Nov. 17, 2021. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.
A two-person protest halted operations at the world’s largest coal port early Wednesday morning, as two women scaled the Port of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia to protest their government’s refusal to take far-reaching climate action.
Hannah Doole and Zianna Faud—both members of the campaign group Blockade Australia—filmed themselves suspended on ropes attached to the port, where they forced the transport of coal to stop for several hours.
“I’m here with my friend Zianna, and we’re stopping this coal terminal from loading all coal into ships and stopping all coal trains,” said Doole.
The Port of Newcastle exported 158 million tonnes of coal in 2020, and its production is not expected to slow down in the coming years despite clear warnings from climate scientists that the continued extraction of coal and fossil fuels will make it impossible to limit global heating to 1.5°C above preindustrial temperatures.
“Another system is possible and we know that because one existed on this continent for tens of thousands of years,” said Doole. “It is now our duty to defend the biosphere that gives us life and to every person that Australia has forgotten and ignored.”
On the heels of COP26, where world leaders agreed to a deal pledging to phase down “unabated” coal power, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that the country will continue producing coal for “decades to come.”
Despite the state of emergency New South Wales officials were forced to declare less than two years ago as wildfires scorched millions of acres of land, destroyed more than a thousand homes, and killed nearly 500 million animals and more than a dozen people, Morrison claimed his continued commitment to coal extraction was akin to “standing up for our national interests.”
Morrison pledged last month to make Australia carbon-neutral by 2050, but his statement was denounced as a “political scam, relying on unproven carbon capture technology without phasing out fossil fuel extraction.
Organizers said Doole and Faud’s protest took place on Blockade Australia’s tenth straight day of direct actions targeting the Port of Newcastle as the group denounces the government’s plan to continue exporting the second-largest amount of coal in the world per year.
Earlier this week a woman prevented coal trains from entering the Port of Newcastle by locking herself to a railroad track, and on Tuesday two other advocates held a demonstration on machinery used to load coal at the port.
“In a system that only cares about money, non-violent blockading tactics that cause material disruption are the most effective and accessible means of wielding real power,” said Blockade Australia on Wednesday.
The two demonstrators were arrested after scaling the port for several hours. Faud appeared in court on Wednesday following the protest, where she pleaded guilty to charges of “hindering the working of mining equipment,” according to The Washington Post. She was ordered to pay a $1,090 fine, sentenced to community service, and ordered not to associate with Doole for two years. Doole is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
Blockade Australia is preparing to hold a large demonstration next June in Sydney, where the group plans to “participate in mass, disruptive action” in Australia’s political and economic center.