Greenpeace protest against Adani

Anti-Adani coalmine activists target insurance broker with virtual protest

Anti-Adani activists will bombard the world’s largest insurance broker with calls, emails and social media messages in a virtual protest on Tuesday ahead of its annual general meeting in New York.

Campaigners have already managed to speak directly with Marsh executives, who are understood to be considering a new climate policy at this week’s meeting. The company is understood to be working for Adani to find insurance policies for the Carmichael mine.

This year was supposed to be Australia’s climate flashpoint. Activists had begun arriving in central Queensland for a “red alert” campaign of daily physical protests to disrupt construction of the world’s most controversial coalmine.

Instead, amid the coronavirus crisis, Adani has made sober, unhindered progress on its Carmichael coal project.

Opponents have been forced to abandon plans for escalating civil disobedience. The Indian miner told Guardian Australia the campaign against it has “failed”.

But while the public health emergency has placed physical activism into hibernation at a critical point for Adani, the climate movement has pivoted its tactics in a way that some hope could more effectively disrupt the project and the global coal sector.

“In many ways, we think the online rally will be more effective than a rally outside an office,” says Carrie Tsai, the coordinator of Stop Adani Redfern.

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“We’re expecting a lot of people from the US to join the online rally. Marsh is based in the US and Stop Adani is a global campaign. Moving online has meant we’ve been collaborating more with people around the globe.

“We know the executives of Marsh are listening to our campaign, because they’re on the other side of the phone.”

The school climate strikers, who protested in their hundreds of thousands last year, sought to maintain momentum during the enforced isolation of the coronavirus crisis by rallying from their bedrooms.

Other groups have run targeted online campaigns. Galilee Blockade, which typically seeks to target businesses in the Adani supply chain, has focused on the construction firm BMD, which has a contract to build parts of the Carmichael rail corridor.

Activists believe they can continue to run effective campaigns in isolation.

“During this pandemic our movement has turned to a lot of online organising to keep the community aware and informed of what the mining industry has been doing in this period,” says Amy Booth, a spokeswoman for Frontline Action on Coal.

“That has made so many people impassioned to take a stand as soon as restrictions allow them to, to head to the Galilee coal basin region to stop work.

“The frontlines movement is still as strong as ever, and as soon as restrictions allow us to start being in areas where we need to stop work, we’ll be doing just that.”

Meanwhile, work continues on the mine and Adani says it remains on schedule to send its first shipment next year.

Many activists are sceptical about that timeline – especially given the likely impact of the Covid crisis on the world’s coal markets.

“We recognise how important it is to continue our operations where safe to do so to provide certainty of employment for our staff, contractors and the thousands of people across north and central Queensland who indirectly rely on our project for their livelihoods,” an Adani spokeswoman said.

“Anti-mining activists and the so-called charities that fund and employ them have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at us to try and stop us building the Carmichael mine and rail project and they have failed.

“After more than eight years of working on our project we have repeatedly demonstrated that we will not be intimidated or deterred from delivering on our promises to Queenslanders and we continue to get on with the construction of the Carmichael project.”