Coal Action Network Aotearoa Newsletter
There has been a lot going on for Coal Action Network Aotearoa and the campaign against new and expanded coal mines in Aotearoa New Zealand
And it's been a while since we've told you about it - so Zella from our organising group has compiled this excellent newsletter for you.
The biggest news has been the well-received launch of our Jobs After Coal report, which explains how New Zealand can carry out a just transition that allows communities and workers to transition away from mining coal into new sources of prosperity. We've got news of the report itself, the launch, and Jeanette Fitzsimons' South Island speaking tour for the report - make sure you check out the details if you're a South Islander.
But that's not all! We also bring you news about climate change and climate politics, including the launch of the Climate Voter Campaign (you can sign on at www.climatevoter.org.nz) and the release of a new film on climate politics in New Zealand. This newsletter also covers the latest developments in fossil fuel divestment campaigns, featuring some big successes here in Aotearoa.
Enjoy the read - and get involved in the campaigns!
Coal Action Network Aotearoa
1. Jobs After Coal: The Report
At last, after months of work, with contributions from everyone on the organising group and critique and input from unionists and economists, Jobs After Coal is published. It is a substantial document, of over 50 pages with 82 references and we hope it will stimulate discussion in coal mining communities.
We don’t have the money to print it, but you can get both the high res (printable) version and the low res (takes less space) version online at: Jobs After Coal
On the journey we have made some interesting discoveries. Coal mining and poor communities go hand in hand in New Zealand. Census data shows that New Zealand’s coal mining communities generally have fewer full time jobs and lower per capita income than their surrounding region or district.
Rosemary Penwarden phoned every mine in the country and found there are only 1259 total jobs in coal mining in New Zealand. The Government continues to go on about the need for coal mining jobs, and, in fact, hides its mining policy under the heading of “Responsible Energy Development for Jobs and Growth.” It relentlessly pushes coal as a job creator, yet it barely blinks at the nearly 40,000 jobs lost in manufacturing in the five years to 2012.
The report outlines ways in which communities can transition away from coal to new sources of prosperity and jobs as international markets and climate change concerns lead the phase out. Jobs After Coal sets out many alternatives to mining, especially in renewable energy and an expanded use of wood. Mining skills are applicable over a wide range of different industries. However, this transition will not happen without planning, leadership, resources, and involvement of the whole community.
“Coal is a boom and bust industry. When the bust comes, coal mining communities have been left with no support – except for plans for more boom and bust coal mines.” said one of the report’s authors, Jeanette Fitzsimons. Plummeting coal prices caused by an oversupply in the market, along with China’s moves to shut steel mills and move to recycling scrap metal, means that the New Zealand coal industry is unlikely to recover any time soon.
Talk of a carbon bubble is now gaining traction as people begin to understand the idea that we have only a small ‘budget’ of carbon we can afford to emit to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.
Coal is a sunset industry, and fossil fuel investments will be left as stranded assets. Indeed, we could pretty much consider Solid Energy as a ‘stranded asset’ these days, with banks forced to back a company that will continue to fail under the ongoing ‘perfect storm’ of low prices and the high dollar.
Rosemary Penwarden, another of the authors, said, “We have to draw a line in the sand for the end of coal in New Zealand, then plan for the day that this happens. Involve the whole community and plan a transition that doesn’t dump people out of jobs overnight like the coal industry has done in recent years. The sooner we prepare for a future where mining towns can determine their own paths without dependence on the vagaries of a dying industry, the better.”
2. Jobs After Coal: The Launch
CANA Organising Group members Rosemary Penwarden, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Tim Jones at the launch of Jobs After Coal. Photo courtesy of Sam Huggard, FIRST.
Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rosemary Penwarden, with assistance from Tim Jones, presented the report to a meeting of around 100 people at Victoria University of Wellington on Thursday 22nd May. The enthusiastic audience was comprised of individuals from a range of backgrounds and interests – policy makers, MPs and staff, unionists, environmentalists, and concerned individuals.
Support for the document has been offered by Forest & Bird, Generation Zero, OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council, 350.org.nz, and Oxfam. Keen interest was shown in the release reported in Stuff and Scoop. Two West Coast papers showed support as well.
3. Jobs After Coal: Taking It On The Road
Jobs After Coal is going on a South Island tour! Come along to hear Jeanette Fitzsimons discuss the report at these meetings - and please let your friends and contacts know too. For those on Facebook, look out for the Facebook events we'll soon be creating for the meetings in July.
Where in New Zealand? What date? Who to contact?
Christchurch 30 June
CPIT 7.30pm Rachel Eyre firstname.lastname@example.org
Top of the South
29 July - 1 PM
Centre for Sustainability
29 July - 5.30 PM
Otago Chamber of Commerce
“Reinvigorating the Economy:
CleanTech Jobs and
Low Carbon Opportunity"
Invercargill 30 July
potluck tea ⇨ 6:30pm networking ⇨ 7:30pm
presentation ⇨ 8:00pm
Federated Farmers Meeting Room Jenny Campbell
4. Jobs After Coal: The Debate
Our opinion piece based on Jobs After Coal was published prominently in the Dominion Post the same day, and prompted a rather pathetic reply from Chris Baker, CEO of the mining lobby group Straterra. He argued that we should continue to mine and use coal because it is cheap—cheaper than alternatives. Coal is cheap because it does not have to pay any of its environmental or health costs, which are substantial. If there were a proper price on carbon to pay for its effects on climate change, and a health levy to pay for the illnesses it causes, coal would no longer be cheap.
Coal is cheap because the government encourages it, including funding a whole government department to facilitate mining and tell people where the likely resources are, but it does nothing similar for renewable energy, especially wood waste which is the alternative to coal for boilers. Even if, on a level playing field, coal was still the cheapest option, it is false economy to use a fuel that will end up destroying the earth by transforming our climate into something that is no longer hospitable to human prosperity.
Baker also asserts that coal use will continue to grow in China. He seems to know better than the Chinese Government, which has announced coal use will peak in the next 5 years.
He is correct that coal was the preferred source of new electricity generation in the decade up to 2010, but things change fast, and it no longer is. New coal to electricity plants are not being built in the US; China is proceeding apace with wind and solar; even India, which has been the standout coal user, now has a leader who is noted for promoting solar energy and has turned his back on coal. We are now in the decade following 2010, and things are different - he needs to get up to date.
Baker says he agrees with us that we need to move to a low carbon economy. Given that coal is the main source of climate-changing carbon dioxide, how does he propose to do this while continuing to mine and use coal at the current rate?
A Global Look at Jobs After Coal
IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, released “World Future Energy Summit” in Abu Dhabi. It looks at a worldwide assessment on jobs created in renewables. They stand at about 5.7 million presently (excluding traditional unsustainable biomass in developing countries) and may grow to well above 15 million by 2030 with appropriate policies. Coal, which has about four times more energy share, presently provides 7 million jobs worldwide.
CANA wishes Cindy Baxter well during her time at the Bonn Climate Change Conference.
IPCC Report to the United Nations
CANA was founded to give a voice to climate justice. Straterra and the Fossil Fuel industry are using their wealth and influence to distract attention away from the reality of climate change, but the world is beginning to take notice of the science and shake off the sceptics promises of “She’ll be right.”
In April the United Nations panel of experts, the IPCC, released a report detailing the dramatic transformation needed if we are going to avert the catastrophic consequences that climate change will bring to the planet.
In this clever sketch, comedian John Oliver does an eloquent job explaining why it’s been so difficult for the public to acknowledge the urgency with which we have to act.
Introducing the Climate Elephant
We all know the metaphor about the elephant in the room. It’s huge, obvious, un-missable and yet somehow we take no notice. “Normal” life goes on in spite of the elephant in the room.
Climate Change is New Zealand’s elephant in the room. We know the science. We know the solutions. We know the urgency. But as a nation we are not yet willing to talk about that elephant. In politics and in the media, in the staff room and at the dinner table we are choosing to ignore the elephant in the room.
So the group at 350.Aotearoa in Christchurch would like to introduce you to Eli the Climate Elephant. Eli will be a visual presence at meetings, protests, media events and photo opportunities between now and the election in September. She’ll have a seat near the front where she can’t be ignored. Eli probably won’t say much, but her presence will be enough to remind politicians that there is an elephant in the room. She’ll be the prompt to encourage others to ask the questions that desperately need answers. Eli will serve to embarrass our so-called leaders.
Eli doesn’t travel far, she’s based in Christchurch, but there are other climate elephants in Auckland and Dunedin. Let’s hope every time these elephants are “in the room”, they generate discussion about the issue that really matters in the lead-up to the election “It’s the Climate, stupid!” If we don’t start paying attention, we won’t direct our futures, climate change will.
Straterra’s Take on Climate Change
“The NZETS protects emissions-intensive, trade-exposed businesses who would otherwise face unfair competition from countries with little or no price on carbon. In the context of weak international action on climate change, NZ should not take a leading role on the global climate change response, although we should certainly be advocating in the UN for a stronger response. Unless there is a global carbon price that is significant, change seems unlikely in the foreseeable future. A circuit breaker is needed.”
Isn’t the free market all about competition? It is unfair to renewable energy that fossil fuels have had such a head start and are not making concessions to allow alternatives a place in the game. It isn’t fair that the global fossil fuel industry has so much money that it naturally attracts power and with that power it uses bullying and scare tactics to shut down opposition and silence or blur discussions about climate change. New Zealand is a 1st World Nation, of course we should take a leading role. We can be entrepreneurs. We have the opportunity to create a vibrant, healthy future. Relying on 19th century energy ideas is not ideology worth defending let alone promoting. A circuit breaker is needed?! Then let’s create one. Let’s step beyond “Business as usual.”
6. Climate Politics
Climate Voter NZ
A coalition of NGOs has launched "Climate Voter NZ", a site on which you can sign up to say that you'll use your vote in the coming General Election to get real action on climate change - the explanation from the site is below.
This is a really good way to get political parties focused on the need for meaningful climate policies. The site was launched at 1.30pm Sunday 22 June, and one week later, almost 17,000 NZ voters have already signed up.
You can sign up here:
From the Climate Voter NZ website:
Being a Climate Voter means you care about climate change and you want all political parties to do something about it. It means you want real action on climate change and you’re prepared to use your vote to get it. It says you support strategies to rapidly phase out fossil fuels and grow New Zealand’s clean energy and low-carbon potential.
Climate Voter is a non-partisan initiative powered by an alliance of New Zealand organisations. It aims to empower climate concerned citizens to use their vote in the September 2014 election to make a difference for the good of present and future generations.
In the lead up to the election we will be asking political parties where they stand on key elements of climate related policy with a #ClimateVoter question of the week. Near election day we will host a live debate between all major political parties inviting them to convince Climate Voters that their party will take real action on climate change.
Hot Air: Climate Change Politics in New Zealand
Premiering at the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival is Alister Barry and Abi King-Jones' hotly-anticipated documentary, Hot Air. The film tracks the politics of climate change in New Zealand. Despite many attempts to minimise New Zealand greenhouse activity in 20 years, emissions have actually increased by 25%. So what went wrong? Barry and King-Jones speak with all the major players from the period, and present a wealth of compelling footage from the archives. As New Zealand prepares for a general election, no time is more crucial for this story to be told. Can we expect real change, or just more hot air?
Screening times announced so far:
Auckland - Sky City Cinema
Friday 1 August 1:00 pm
Saturday 2nd August 3.30 pm
Wellington - Paramount Cinema
Thursday 31 July 6:15pm (world premiere)
Wednesday 6th August 11:00 am
Anglican General Synod/te Hinota Whanui (GS/tHW) for Aotearoa
NZ and Pasifika is the first Anglican province to agree to divest from fossil fuel shares
At GS/tHW, held at Waitangi in May, delegates passed a resolution, unanimously, which requires the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia “to take all reasonable steps” to divest its shares in fossil fuel companies by its next Synod in mid- 2016.
Mover, Rod Oram, told delegates that it “gives us the opportunity to offer leadership on, and to make a practical response to, climate change. Thus, it speaks to two marks of our Christian mission: care of creation and righting unjust social structures. Of all the ways in which we live unsustainably, it is climate change that is causing the gravest harm – right now, here and around the world – to the very ecosystem on which our existence depends. Climate change is being driven simply by pumping a rapidly rising volume of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.’’
A journalist specialising in economic issues, Mr Oram emphasised a key need was to shift the weight of investment away from fossil fuels into sustainable forms of energy. He explained there is a worldwide campaign to encourage investors to sell their shares in fossil fuel companies. It was pointed out that while ethical imperatives for divesting are clear, there are also a number of practical financial reasons for doing so, since shares are not producing the same returns as previously.
Strong support came from Tikanga Pasefika Bishop, Api Qiliho, who said that the survival of Pacific Island people is at stake and that they are already feeling the impacts of climate change.
The Pension Board manages $160 million of funds on behalf of its members, and they now need to commit to this directive from GS/tHW and the growing feeling worldwide for divestment of fossil fuel investments. Two of synod’s Tikanga Pasefika members put an amendment which asked synod to set up a group to advise on reinvesting the divested funds into conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity in regions that are vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise. This was also carried.
GS/tHW members along with others in Anglican Justice groups who had worked hard on this motion, were delighted with this result as it means a commitment has been made. Hopefully other Anglican, as well as other churches, will follow suit because of this moral imperative for the future of our planet.
Dunedin City Council Divestment
Last month the Dunedin City Council voted to develop a Socially Responsible Investment policy for its Waipori Fund, which includes divesting from fossil fuel extraction. Dunedin thus becomes the first NZ city to divest from fossil fuels and joins the ranks of 24 US cities including San Francisco and Seattle, and of a growing number of major institutions, such as Stanford University. It is also in line with the thinking of the world’s largest fund manager, Blackrock, which has teamed up with the FTSE group to set up a new equity global index that excludes companies linked to exploration, ownership or extraction of carbon-based fossil fuel reserves, classing them as future stranded assets.
Global Divestment Movement
Globally, churches and universities are using their moral standing to forge a trail away from fossil fuels by divesting pension and endowment funds from fossil fuel shares.
South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently called for an anti-apartheid style boycott and disinvestment campaign against the fossil fuel industry.
In the US, 12 religious institutions have already divested from the fossil fuel industry. The United Church of Christ (UCC) in the US became the first national faith communion to vote to divest from fossil fuel companies, with the support of its major investment institution, United Church Funds (UCF). UCF manages investment funds of over 1,000 churches, conferences, associations and other ministries, with more than half a billion dollars in assets.
Trinity-St Paul’s United in Toronto voted unanimously to ensure that its own funds are not invested in any of the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies.
Multi-faith groups in Australia and North America recently sent a letter to Pope Francis saying it is "immoral" to profit from fossil fuels.
Pope Francis wrote: ...the gift of knowledge helps us to avoid falling prey to excessive or incorrect attitudes. The first incorrect attitude lies in the risk of considering ourselves masters of Creation. Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is it the property of only a few. Creation is a gift. It is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.
8. Westpac Campaign
CANA and 350.Aotearoa and supporters know that deep systematic change is needed in our society if we are to address the causes of climate change. And those who profit from the production of fossil fuels are the first targets for that change.
In New Zealand we have a problem with coal. It’s dirty; it’s polluting; it’s a thing of the past. And we export a lot of it. So there are those who profit from a denial of the realities of climate change. For a long time, Solid Energy has been the Number One in this industry, but they are in steep decline through a combination of bad management and economic reality. The second player is Bathurst Resources – a relative newcomer.
Bathurst is an Australian company with an office in Wellington. When that office was opened by our Prime Minister we should have seen the writing on the wall. Bathurst has fought hard to secure the rights to mine on the cherished Denniston Plateau on the West Coast.
In spite of all their political support in Greymouth and in Wellington, Bathurst knows that the international price for coal is so low that it operations (current and planned) are not profitable. So to stay afloat they need a friendly bank to extend their growing overdraft. Surprisingly enough, that friendly bank is Westpac, one of the High Street banks in New Zealand and a suitable target for the actions of CANA and 350 Aotearoa.
Action has taken two forms. In Wellington, our people have been sitting down and discussing divestment with people from Westpac. They’ve drawn attention to Westpac’s claims that sustainability matters to them and the contrast with their actual lending policies. And out in the provinces, our people have been running campaigns to highlight Westpac’s involvement and to shame them into action.
To read more on this subject, go to:
The Westpac Campaign Working in Christchurch
Christchurch has been one of the centres active in the campaign. Action has taken many forms. We held a symbolic and very public “die in” at Westpac’s busy Riccarton branch, complete with forensic staff and “Climate Crime Scene" tape (watch the YouTube here). A couple of weeks later we let it be known we’d do the same at Barrington and Westpac decided to close the branch early to avoid embarrassment. But of course it all goes on You Tube and Facebook, so there’s no avoiding it.
Most recently we were out with other groups around the country in support of those who were very publicly closing their accounts (watch the You-tube here). Over 160 people have decided that they can no longer stomach the conflict between Westpac’s claims of sustainability and their refusal to take action on the Bathurst overdraft. Eight customers gathered in Christchurch with supporters to publicly close their accounts (watch the YouTube here).
So far, Westpac has tried to resist the pressure, but the moral imperative doesn’t go away. Neither does CANA or 350.Aotearoa.
9. Bathurst Resources
CANA Press Release: Mining decision a tragedy for Denniston plateau
The news that Bathurst plans to start mining at Denniston on 1 July is a tragedy for the stunning ecology of the plateau, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) said today.
“Not only is this a tragedy for the beautiful plateau, it is also a tragedy for the climate, as every new coal mine is stealing from our children’s future,” said Jeanette Fitzsimons, a spokesperson for CANA.
“It is a tragedy for the West Coast communities who will once again put their faith in the boom-bust of coal instead of building a more robust and reliable future.”
We know that this mine is not economic at current prices. Evidence at the Environment Court shows that Bathurst needs $160/tonne for the mine to be worthwhile and the current price is less that two-thirds of this.
“How are they going to pay the $22million compensation to DOC that is a condition of their consent?” asked Ms Fitzsimons.
“There is a real risk that this mine will fail economically and they will walk away leaving a massive hole in the ground, a permanently damaged plateau, an increase in climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions, and a default on their obligations to the Department of Conservation” she said.
Coal Action Network Aotearoa opposes all new coal mines but believes existing mines should be allowed to run their course, phasing out as their permits end and miners retire.
There is already five times more coal available to use than can be burned if the world is to remain below two degrees of warming, according to climate scientists.
10. CANA Blog
CANA’s blog is at http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com
As well as our latest news, you’ll find pages (shown across the top of the blog) with information and resources you can use.
11. How to donate to CANA
We rely on your generous donations to keep the campaign going. Here are the account details if you want to donate:
Coal Action Network
38 9011 0484435 00
CANA on Twitter
We are on Twitter, and we encourage you to follow us there and retweet our tweets (thanks to everyone who has been doing so!): https://twitter.com/#!/coalaction