50 climate activists charged after ‘halt’, shovelling of coal train in Australia

The group is urging Australia’s government to cancel all new coal projects.—RisingtideAustralia/Twitter

SYDNEY: At least 50 climate change activists were charged with unlawful demonstration near Australia’s largest coal export port on Sunday after protesters climbed on a coal train and shovelled the coal.

New South Wales state police said 47 demonstrators were charged with “rail corridor offences”, two with malicious damage and one with assaulting a security guard in relation to the “unlawful protest activity” near the Port of Newcastle, some 170 km (105 miles) from the state capital Sydney.

Climate activist group Rising Tide, which claimed responsibility for the protest, said arrests were made when people were “occupying the train”.

In a statement, the group said: “Twenty of the group scaled the train and used shovels to unload coal from the laden wagons.” Police said 14 activists had climbed onto a train carriage in a railway corridor in the suburb of Sandgate.

Climate change is a polarized issue in Australia, which is the world’s top exporter of coal.

The centre-left Labor government does not support a ban on all new fossil fuel projects. It sees “safeguard mechanism” reform laws as key to its pledge to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 in a country that ranks as one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters per capita.

The Port of Newcastle is the largest bulk shipping port on Australia’s east coast and the nation’s largest terminal for coal exports, according to the New South Wales government.

The protest group posted an image on Twitter showing protesters in front and on top of a coal train. A banner on the train said, “‘Survival Guide for Humanity’: no new coal”.

The group tweeted it had “halted coal” into the port and was demanding the Labor Party to “immediately cancel all new coal projects”.

A Port of Newcastle spokesperson said shipping operations were operating normally on Sunday.

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