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Rapid Reduction In Coal Use Needed Starting NOW

Auckland Climate Action and supporting groups are holding a demonstration at 3pm today, calling for Genesis and Fonterra, two of New Zealand’s largest coal users, to take urgent action to quit using fossil fuels. The demo will be outside the Genesis and Fonterra offices at 155 and 109 Fanshawe St, Auckland CBD.

Emissions from fossil fuels are right now rapidly leading us to catastrophic effects. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is calling for all developed countries to quit using coal by 2030. But for low temperature applications, where we have other well-understood options, we need to move much faster than this.

While Genesis is involved in some wind farm development and testing of biofuels, coal use at its Huntly plant has actually increased substantially in recent years. Other power companies want to keep Huntly in the market because they currently all get paid the same rate as the highest priced supplier feeding into the grid, which is often Huntly. Meanwhile, around 10 consented wind farms remain unbuilt, including one in the hills behind Huntly that alone could potentially generate up to half the electricity that Huntly does.

Genesis needs to move rapidly towards completely quitting coal use. And the government needs to change how the electricity market works, so that electricity generated from renewable sources gets priority access to the grid and electricity prices reflect actual generating costs. Parliament looked at this option in 2013 with the NZ Power proposal, which it was estimated would reduce consumers’ electricity costs by up to $330 a year, but it was never adopted. This change urgently needs to be enacted.

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Fonterra also relies heavily on coal in its dairy factories, but it has other well-understood options. For example, it is trialling the use of wood chips to power one of its Te Awamutu boilers. There is potential to move much more rapidly to the use of this fuel because currently a lot of trimmings from forestry operations just go to waste. Electricity is also an option to replace fossil fuels.

Both Genesis and Fonterra need to quit coal use, and take the necessary steps to achieve this by 2025, if possible, and no later than 2027. And the government needs to rapidly raise carbon charges towards the cost of the damage the emissions are causing, so that coal use becomes uneconomic. If the revenue from these charges is returned to the population, for example via a citizen’s dividend, then goods and services will remain affordable for people, and our rising income inequality will also be addressed.

To protect the future of our children and grandchildren, and to save many species from extinction, emissions from coal and other fossil fuels must be very rapidly reduced, starting RIGHT NOW.

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