A small band of protesters stood outside Fonterra's headquarters in downtown Auckland today to demonstrate against the co-operative's extensive use of coal in its dairy factories up and down the country.

Fonterra uses the intense heat generated by coal and gas for a network of driers which take the water out of milk in order to turn it into milk powder.

Despite Fonterra's claims that they "act sustainably and responsibly", New Zealand's dairy giant is now the country's second largest coal user, Auckland Coal Action Group spokesman Peter Whitmore said. "This makes their sustainability claims 'greenwash'," he said.

Climate scientists argue that world needs to phase out of coal use by 2030 to offset global warming effects of excess carbon emissions.


"To achieve this, Fonterra needs to be rapidly moving to the use of sustainable fuels," Whitmore said.

"Coal is adding more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and we are running into serious climate problems now," he said.

"Some people are taking it (carbon reduction) seriously and Fonterra does not seem to be doing so yet," he told the Herald.

Fonterra's chief operating officer global operations, Robert Spurway, said three out of the co-op's 17 North Island plants still use coal.

The South Island plants, which don't have the benefit of Maui gas - use coal.
"We are New Zealand's largest business and conversion of milk into dairy product is an energy intensive business," he said. "Our focus has traditionally been on making that as energy efficient as we possibly can," he told the Herald.

Spurway said their had been a 16 per cent reduction in Fonterra's energy intensity - equivalent to energy demand of Wellington - over the last 12 years.

"We are proud of that but we are actively looking at solutions to further reduce energy and to move away from coal," he said.

Fonterra said it buys only low sulphur coal and has installed emission control systems at most of its plants.