Hundreds of climate activists are descending on Australia’s Latrobe Valley this weekend with a message for the owner of the in the industrialized world: Your social license to continue burning brown coal in dinosaurs like the Hazelwood Power Station has been revoked.
The mass rally and civil disobedience to shut down Hazelwood comes as a new finds Australia has passed the U.S. to lead the world in CO2 emissions per capita, courtesy of its heavy reliance on coal.
Under the banner ", the protesters will be delivering a “community decommission order” to International Power Australia, says organizer Louise Morris.
Their goal, supported by , , and the , is to highlight the adverse climate impact of coal-fired power generation and encourage a national shift to renewable energy.
“By switching us off reliance on coal based electricity we can open up the playing field for a suite of renewable energy that have a future in a carbon constrained world, provide more jobs and are ultimately climate friendly,” Morris said.
“We are going backwards here in Australia, and we need a strong and active community-based climate movement to turn us back on track towards safe climate solutions. Coal is the wrong way to go. We know the money, technology and expertise are ready but we are lacking political will and political vision. This action will help to create that political will."
Located in the heart of Australia’s brown coal fields, Hazelwood has been operating since 1965 and is among the nation’s oldest and dirtiest still in service. According to the event organizers, the plant is responsible for of carbon each year—15% of the state of Victoria’s total emissions.
Hazelwood was to be decommissioned in 2005, but International Power lobbied the state government to to 2030—effectively locking in years of additional emissions.
The government’s decision to extend the life of the power plant was met with harsh criticism from national environmental groups, particular with listing Hazelwood as the most polluting power station in the industrialized world. The plant’s ‘world’s worst’ status is due to the fact that it burns brown coal, which is three times more carbon intensive than black coal.
Disenchanted by state government policy and dissatisfied with the federal government’s climate change bill, some within the environment movement feel that direct action is a necessary step.
“We’ve tried all the other tools in our toolbox,” Morris said. “We have petitioned, wrote letters, held community meetings, voted for the climate, rallied in the cities and walked against warming. And from that we got a policy that committed to a 5 percent reduction in national emissions by 2020.”
Activists have been targeting Hazelwood for months with protests. In , seven Greenpeace activists scaled the fence and chained themselves to machinery until police cut them free and arrested them for trespassing. On the more extreme end, warned International Power's CEO that his "" as long as Hazelwood "continues to pollute at such an inexcusable level."