26 Jun 2021

Forest & Bird launches petition seeking end to new coal mines

6:42 pm on 26 June 2021

The government needs to consider how to stop new or expanded coal mines in New Zealand to keep climate warming to safe levels, Forest & Bird says.

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Moving away from coal mining will require clear signals from the government, Forest & Bird says. (file pic) Photo: Lakeview Image Library/ 123rf

The environmental group hosted a virtual conference today, featuring Environment Minister David Parker and former prime minister Helen Clark.

During his speech in the morning, the organisation's chief executive Kevin Hague announced the new petition.

There are currently proposals for new opencast coal mines in Southland and on the West Coast.

"The simple fact is we do not have the capacity to mine more coal and burn more coal if we're going to get to no more than 1.5 degrees of warming," Hague said.

"It's very clear we have to stop using fossil fuels and we have to do it now."

Hague argued allowing such development to take place impacts not just the amount of fossil fuels released into the atmosphere, but also the local environment.

"The Buller Plateau is home to many nationally endangered birds such as roroa (great spotted kiwi), and an incredible range of other unique and isolated animals.

"The area would be irreversibly damaged by more mining, with some species likely driven to extinction," he said.

Intact forest from the proposed mining site on conservation land at Te Kuha.

Intact forest from the proposed mining site on conservation land at Te Kuha. Photo: Neil Silverwood / Supplied by Forest & Bird

Forest & Bird has been campaigning for more than a decade to save this area, much of which is public conservation land.

Conservation land should not be mined and wetlands and forests needed to be protected for future generations, Hague said.

"We shouldn't be mining conservation land at all, let alone for climate-damaging coal. It's time to start taking a nature-first climate response seriously, and keep wetlands and forests healthy for future generations."

NZ must move away from using coal - Forest & Bird

The country's usage of coal has increased in recent years, despite its status as the worst, most polluting fossil fuel.

In the first three months of this year, the same amount of coal was used to generate electricity as in all of 2016 and 2017 combined.

Coal generated 10.35 petajoules from January to March, slightly under the 10.52 petajoules in all of 2016 and 2017, according to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Quarterly Energy Statistics, released earlier this month.

"What this tells us is we need to quickly ramp up our generation from renewable sources, like solar, wind and others [and] to invest in the research and development for yet further sources, like tidal," Hague said.

"We also need to actually deal with a framework for electricity generation that sees companies like Meridian actually spilling water out of storage dams to manipulate the price."

A recent International Energy Agency report provided a worldwide roadmap to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. This pathway requires no new oil and gas fields and no new coal mines or mine extensions from 2021.

The group has also joined with other groups such as the Coal Action Network, Pou Take Ahuarangi National Iwi Chairs Forum and Generation Zero in another petition calling for the end of any new oil and gas perspecting, exploration and mining permits.

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