Climate activists target Asia-Pacific summit

( AFP ) - Climate change protesters staged a pre-dawn break-in at an Australian power station Monday as a pattern of guerrilla-style raids emerged ahead of an Asia-Pacific summit in Sydney at the weekend.

Four environmental activists chained themselves to a coal-carrying conveyor belt at the Loy Yang power station in the southeastern state of Victoria, just a day after a coal ship was targeted in a port near Sydney.

The power station, which provides nearly a third of Victoria's electricity, activated emergency procedures and reduced output for five hours while the three men and a woman remained attached to the equipment, a spokesman said.

A police search and rescue crew finally used metal cutters to cut free the demonstrators -- who said they belonged to a group called "Real Action on Climate Change" -- before arresting them.

A spokeswoman for the activists, Michaela Stubbs, said the protest was one of several planned actions targeting the fossil fuel industry across Australia on Monday.

The demonstrations were designed to send a message to the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting in Sydney this week, she told national radio.

"We're already seeing the effects of climate change and it's our generation and future generations that are going to be dealing with the long-term consequences of climate change," she said.

"We need to see real action now. Their non-committal, aspirational targets are completely inadequate to stop dangerous climate change."

Climate change is on the agenda for the summit, but host Prime Minister John Howard has drawn criticism after revealing that no attempt will be made to set binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Instead, APEC will likely agree on a "long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal" to replace the main international treaty on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, when it expires in 2012.

APEC includes the world's two biggest polluters, the United States and China, while Australia is a major exporter of coal, one of the fossil fuels blamed for global warming.

On Sunday, 12 Greenpeace protesters were arrested and charged after they rode inflatable dinghies out to a ship carrying coal in the port of Newcastle, north of Sydney, and painted an anti-APEC slogan on its hull.

The group also unfurled a banner, written in Chinese, suggesting Australia and the United States are attempting to undermine the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The Australian government has warned of tough action against protesters, and officials Monday defended jittery police who forced three German tourists to delete photographs of a huge security fence erected in Sydney for the summit.

The police action may have been "over the top" but was necessary because demonstrators were reportedly looking for weak points in the fence which they could attack, said New South Wales state Transport Minister John Watkins.

Around 3,500 police, backed by 1,500 counter-terrorism and special forces soldiers, will enforce a city centre exclusion zone marked by the fence in a security crackdown criticised as excessive by civil libertarians.

Howard used the popular Internet site YouTube to blame the tight security, which has irritated Sydney residents, on expected violent protests.

US President George W. Bush is due in Sydney on Tuesday for a state visit ahead of the summit, and an anti-war group called the Stop Bush Coalition has planned a demonstration to coincided with his arrival.

"Unfortunately, the extra security precautions that are needed to be taken are a necessary part of hosting such meetings in today's world," Howard said in an address on YouTube.

"They are the fault of people who threaten violence as part of their protest."

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