British Columbians Gather at Legislature - Pledge to take Non-Violent Direct Action to Stop Coal Mining and Exports

Jan 26, 2011

British Columbians Gather at Legislature - Pledge to take Non-Violent Direct Action to Stop Coal Mining and Exports

A cross section of British Columbians gathered at the legislature at noon today to launch a new campaign to “End BC coal mining and export by 2015”. Taking action, dozens of church leaders, retired professors, scientists, parents and grandparents symbolically spilled coal at the foot of the legislature steps to send a message to the BC government that coal must stay in the ground. This action follows a letter sent to the Ministers of the Environment, Energy, and Mines yesterday.

Reverend Ken Gray of Colwood Church of the Advent was the first speaker. He thanked the ad-hoc group, which he described as “ordinary citizens from all walks of life”, for coming out and for pledging to hold government to account for the greenhouse gas emissions from BC coal – emissions that harm the planet no matter where in the world that coal is burned.

Rev. Gray spoke of the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions for the future of all humanity. He asked, “How can our government ask British Columbians to take individual action to reduce emissions and at the same time plan to double our shipments of coal to China?”

Each person in turn spoke of his or her personal reasons for pledging to take action to keep BC’s coal in the ground as, one by one, they added to the mound of coal. Individuals spoke powerfully and emotionally about their children, their grandchildren, their communities, and about the vulnerable people around the world already suffering from the effects of climate change. They cleaned the coal up before they left, but their message was clear – they will be back.

The gathering was organized by a grass roots group calling itself British Columbians for Climate Action. The group is calling on Victoria to prohibit all new coal mines immediately and to end all mining and export of coal from the province by 2015, the year by which climate science says emissions must start rapidly declining if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe. The group is also calling on government to support a just transition to green jobs for workers in the mining sector. They have pledged to build public awareness and to take creative, non-violent direct action to pressure government to stop the mining and export of coal.

“Coal is the biggest source of heat-trapping, global warming pollution,” says group member Cliff Stainsby from Cobble Hill. “To have any hope of avoiding runaway climate change, coal needs to stay in the ground. It's that simple.”

The group has been encouraging people to take the “direct action pledge” on its website, and to organized actions in their local communities. The list of pledge takers on the site features people from across British Columbia, and includes members of faith communities and representatives of some of BC's major environmental organizations. The group's facebook page also shows support from a number of prominent British Columbia business people, academics, climate scientists and politicians.

“People have agreed to set aside their everyday affiliations to work together on this,” says group member Kevin Washbrook from Vancouver. “We share a common view: writing letters, signing petitions and attending rallies are important, but they aren't enough to stop climate change. The only way our government is going to stop exporting climate destruction is if people who care take personal and direct action to make it happen.”

The group's website points out that when BC's coal exports are burned overseas, they produce global warming emissions equal to those produced by all activities at home in BC. The site goes on to note that BC effectively banned the use of coal in this province in 2007 when it required any new coal fired power plant to capture and store all CO2 emissions – a requirement that still cannot be met today.

“If coal so dangerous that we've banned its use here in BC, what are we doing exporting it around the world?” asks Cowichan Bay resident Jane Kilthei. “Victoria says that emissions from exported coal are someone else's problem, but climate change doesn't respect national borders. Our government is ignoring the serious risks of climate change by promoting BC coal exports to the rest of the world, and they are putting our children and the planet in danger.”

Following today’s action in Victoria, the group is asking to meet with the Ministers. They are also planning a series of events to raise awareness of the scale of BC's coal industry, and to continue to put pressure on government to stop coal mining and export.


For further information

Cliff Stainsby 250.743.7483
Jane Kilthei 250.715.1007
Kevin Washbrook 778.848.8278

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