Author Archives: cindybax

More coal jobs gone, still no transition plan from Government

Press Release

With the news of 68 coal jobs going today in Huntly East Coal Mine, Coal Action Network Aotearoa called for the Government to urgently put time and effort into a national discussion on a Just Transition for workers from the failing coal industry.

68 coal jobs up in smoke, and still no sign of a transition plan

68 coal jobs up in smoke, and still no sign of a transition plan

“Huntly East’s closing was inevitable after Genesis Energy’s announcement that it will close New Zealand’s last remaining coal-fired power station. Now that Solid Energy is in administration, we can only expect more of this,” said Cindy Baxter of Coal Action Network Aotearoa.

“But where is the Government’s transition plan for these workers – and others in the future who may lose their jobs due to Solid Energy’s demise?”

Genesis already has a stockpile of 700,000 tonnes of coal, and used the announcement of Solid Energy going into administration to break its contract with the company.

Globally, the coal industry is struggling, as China and India increasingly turn to renewable energy. Last week, the largest worker layoff in China’s history saw 100,000 coal industry workers lose their jobs.

A number of US coal producers have declared bankruptcy, others are teetering, and global giants such as BHP Billiton and Glencore are putting on brave faces as they head into a worsening commodities crash.

“The Government cannot just sit back and watch as communities bear the brunt of its mismanagement of Solid Energy – these workers deserve more than that,” said Baxter.

Coal Action Network Aotearoa brought the need for a transition plan for coal industry workers and coal mining communities to the fore in its Jobs After Coal report, first released last year and updated this year.

Key told not to attend Paris and to pull NZ delegation

Joint Press release with CANA, Greenpeace,

Auckland 25 September 2015 – A coalition of environmental organisations (1), is calling for John Key not to attend the upcoming Paris climate summit, and to pull Tim Groser and the entire New Zealand delegation from the two weeks of talks.

“New Zealand is proving one of the biggest blocks to a meaningful global deal in December. In the interests of a successful outcome and for the good of the climate, we’re asking that our delegation not go,” said Greenpeace climate campaigner Steve Abel.

As well as having one of the weakest climate action plans and one of the poorest emission reduction records of the developed nations who’ll be in Paris, the New Zealand delegation also wants countries’ emission targets to be non-binding under any agreement, meaning governments could walk away from their targets at any time.

“The world’s ability to manage climate change rests on these targets; they must legally oblige  governments to reduce emissions. To call for them to be non-binding is to admit defeat from the outset,” said Niamh O’Flynn from 350 Aotearoa.

“Tim Groser and our delegation’s remit will be to prevent a Paris agreement that commits New Zealand to more climate action,” said Cindy Baxter of Coal Action Network Aotearoa. “They’ll be doing everything they can to bring everyone down to New Zealand’s level, in which case the world will be heading for at least 3-4 degrees of warming.” Continue reading

Our letter to John Key: pull our delegation from the Paris meeting – and don’t go yourself

Our Letter to Prime Minister, the Hon John Key

Dear Prime Minister,

Climate change is the challenge of our time; its scale and reach making it unlike anything humanity has faced in the past or is likely to face in future.

Climate Minister Tim Groser - better for the climate to just stay home from Paris.

Climate Minister Tim Groser – better for the climate to just stay home from Paris. (Flickr)

As such, Governments will gather in Paris in December in an attempt to reach a global deal limiting warming to 2 degrees and setting countries up for zero-carbon economies by 2050.   

Paris can be a watershed moment; the choices made there could determine whether our planet is a viable one on which we can all live. Already, we have Tuvalu’s Prime Minister seeking to move his entire population to another country.

Any agreement to come out of Paris must be legally binding; it must commit, by law, all countries to cut their emissions, and it must prevent governments backsliding in the face of political or economic change.

The New Zealand delegation to Paris, led by Minister Groser, is pushing for countries’ emission reduction targets to be non-binding, meaning governments could walk away from them at any time. This approach would fail to deliver the emission cuts needed to safely manage climate change, the results of which would be catastrophic. The European Union and others have already rejected non-binding targets for this reason.

In light of this, and with respect, we request that you withdraw New Zealand’s delegation from the talks, and decline to attend yourself. Continue reading

Fonterra finally admits its coal mine is “on hold”

By Jeanette Fitzsimons

Fonterra has just confirmed, in a letter to local residents, that its proposed mine at Mangatangi, in the Waikato, is “on hold” – confirming CANA’s claim earlier this year.

Auckland Coal Action protest at Fonterra's proposed Mangatangi mine.

Auckland Coal Action protest at Fonterra’s proposed Mangatangi mine.

We can’t help but smile,  because the day after we wrote a blog in February, saying the mine was “on hold indefinitely” a furious Fonterra claimed in the NBR that the mine was not on hold, but simply “delayed.”

The difference was never made clear to us and we remained puzzled at Fonterra’s overreaction to what appeared to be a nicety of the English language.

Last week, six months later, this is what Fonterra, through its Glencoal subsidiary, said in a letter to local residents:

“It has recently been decided to put the development of Mangatangi mine on hold, given the economic position of Fonterra and the dairy industry generally.”

Continue reading

The Field Trip to Failure

By Zella Downing, of CANA and Coal Action Murihiku

The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, the AusIMM, focuses on “promoting excellence across all professional disciplines through advocacy and provision of continuing professional development opportunities.”

New Vale lignite mine, Mataura, Southland.

New Vale lignite mine, Mataura, Southland.

One such development opportunity might have been the AusIMM’s  upcoming field trip this Saturday to the lignite fields of eastern Southland, as part of its upcoming conference – except the proposed development of those lignite fields bears no kinship with “excellence.”

The proposed development of the lignite was one of Solid Energy’s biggest failures. They spoke boldly about the wealth and glory that would flood the region, but the project was a complete washout, and its exorbitant cost helped lead Solid Energy into financial ruin.

Promotional material for Saturday’s fieldtrip describes the aborted briquetting plant as “the initial step in [a] thwarted lignite development strategy”. Promoters need to say something like that because it would be impossible justifying a field trip to a failure. This plant failed to produce the wee energy sumptuous briquettes that it said it would produce because they were plagued with difficulties. GTL’s North Dakota plant had to be closed after spontaneous combustions.
Continue reading

Coal, climate change, and the New Zealand economy: winners, losers, and long-term users

As the country reeled with the news last week that Solid Energy had gone into administration with a $300m debt, another event was happening in the Pacific that puts the debate in a context that it too seldom receives in New Zealand.

Sign on Kiribati's island of Tarawa. Photo: flickr

Sign on Kiribati’s island of Tarawa. Photo: flickr

On Thursday, Kiribati Prime Minister Anote Tong wrote to world leaders calling for a moratorium on new coalmines.

“Kiribati, as a nation faced with a very uncertain future, is calling for a global moratorium on new coal mines. lt would be one positive step towards our collective global action against climate change and it is my sincere hope that you and your people would add your positive support in this endeavour,” he wrote.

“The construction of each new coal mine undermines the spirit and intent of any agreement we may reach, particularly in the upcoming COP 21 in Paris, whilst stopping new coal mine constructions NOW will make any agreement reached in Paris truly historical.”

UK Economist Sir Nicholas Stern agreed: “The use of coal is simply bad economics, unless one refuses to count as a cost the damages and deaths now and in the future from air pollution and climate change,” he told Reuters (Stern’s full statement here).

In June, Pope Francis said in his encyclical that the use of “highly polluting fossil fuels needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”

Continue reading

It’s time the Government saw the writing on the wall for coal

Press Release 

Coal Action Network Aotearoa today called for the Government to “get real” about the future of coal.

Former Solid Energy CEO Don Elder and Finance Minister Bill English turn the sod for Solid's failed lignite briquetting plant in Southland.

Former Solid Energy CEO Don Elder and Finance Minister Bill English turn the sod for Solid’s failed lignite briquetting plant in Southland.

Solid Energy going into administration is good for the workers currently employed by Solid Energy in the short term, but the future of coal is looking bleak.

“It’s good that no workers will lose their jobs today,” said CANA’s Cindy Baxter. “But, our “Jobs After Coal” report shows coal mining in New Zealand doesn’t have a history of helping the communities it serves – in most areas where coal is mined, the median income of those communities is lower than the regional average.”

The Government has continually failed to face the reasons for Solid Energy’s freefall in recent years.  It pushed the company into an untenable position by changing policies such as the mandatory biofuels regulation, and backed the its failed and highly irresponsible plans to mine billions of tones of Southland lignite. What’s more, the Government continued to insist that Solid went into more debt, all the time ignoring the plummeting coal prices.   Continue reading