THE END of coal is in sight with a group of 190 countries and organisations agreeing to rapidly phase out coal power at COP26, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has just announced — but Australia is missing from the list.
The ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’ commits signatories to both phase out coal power and end support for new coal power stations. It already has the signatures of Vietnam – a mooted, major destination for Australian coal – and Poland – a country that ranks ninth in the world for coal consumption.
Climate Councillor, Professor Will Steffen: “This is coal’s curtain call. It is a major global commitment and the world’s second largest exporter of thermal coal, Australia, is nowhere in sight. First, we refused to join more than 100 other countries in the global methane pledge, and now this. Australia is so out of step and out of touch with the rest of the world, and that’s going to harm our economy, climate and future prosperity.”
The UK Government says alongside pledges by major banks to end coal – and earlier commitments from China, Japan, Korea and G20 countries to end overseas finance for coal by the end of 2021 – this effectively ends international public finance for new unabated coal power.
“Fossil fuels like coal have got to go, because they are accelerating global warming, which is worsening extreme weather events like the Black Summer bushfires that harm Australians. We have known about the risks, impacts and costs of climate change for some time, but it seems the prosperity and wellbeing of Australians is once again being ignored in favour of short-term profits for coal and gas corporations,” said Professor Steffen.
“We need to stop clinging to our polluting past and look to the future. It’s not just a matter of saving face internationally, it’s about creating a future where our children and grandchildren can not only survive, but thrive,” he said.
“Australia is acting as a handbrake on global climate action. Government representatives are spruiking gas, a fossil fuel, and carbon capture and storage at this climate conference and are resisting the push to phase out fossil fuels globally,” said Professor Steffen.
“Whether Australia likes it or not, the world is moving toward net zero and that has serious ramifications for our country, particularly for communities and sectors that have traditionally relied on fossil fuels. We need to respond quickly and decisively by cutting emissions rapidly this decade, and supporting zero-emission products and industries that set us up for the future,” he said.
The Climate Council recommends that Australia reduce its emissions by 75% (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035. This is based on rigorous scientific risk assessments.
Australia Coal Facts:
- Australia is the world’s second largest export of thermal coal – the kind used in power stations – and produces 20% of the total coal traded internationally.
- The Australian government is still pursuing new thermal coal, funding a $3.6 million feasibility study into a potential new coal power station at Collinsvale in Queensland.
- The top five countries that Australia exports coal to are: Japan (43%), South Korea (16%), Taiwan (13%), India (7%) and China (3%).
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison has visited Vietnam for trade talks that included discussion on importing Australian coal.
- Despite considerable progress, Australia has one of the most emissions intensive electricity networks in the world, with 54% of the country’s electricity coming from coal, and a further 20% from gas. It also has some of the most inefficient coal-fired power stations in the world.
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