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Tue May 28, 2019, 05:22 PM

Surprise! After Farcical Oz Elections, Major Coal Company Suspends Bids For Mining Leases

As the Australian election approached, the UK parliament declared a national climate emergency. Perhaps, with a different electoral outcome, Australia would have followed suit. Instead, at least for the next three years, we will ignore the emergency while chasing the mirage of coalmines promising to create thousands of jobs. That mirage began to fade almost immediately with the announcement that the China Stone project, right next to Adani’s Carmichael mine project in the Galilee Basin, had suspended its bid for mining leases. Other projects in the basin have been on hold for years.

The prospects for the Carmichael mine are not much better, at least in the absence of a large injection of public money (which may now be on the cards). Adani announced in November that it would provide $2bn of its own money to fund the project. Gautam Adani could afford to spend this much if he chose to do so, but has so far shown no sign of willingness to pour such a large proportion of his personal wealth into an obvious dud. Such announcements have been made before and nothing has happened.

The coal boom of the last decade will fade away, whatever Australian governments do. By contrast, the climate emergency is not going away and will force itself on our attention sooner or later. When it does, we will face the need to reduce our emissions rapidly and to levels well below the very soft target the current government has set itself. To match the commitments of comparable countries, Australia would need to cut emissions in 2030 by at least 40% relative to 2005. Moreover, a central point of the Paris agreement in 2015 was recognition that these initial commitments were inadequate and would need to be ratcheted up over subsequent rounds of negotiation. By the time we return our attention to the climate crisis, we will be facing a policy emergency.

The story is similar with respect to transport. In 2014 the Climate Change Authority (of which I was then a member) proposed a light vehicle fuel-efficiency standards which would have saved motorists money over the life of a vehicle, while substantially reducing emissions. More recently, the emergence of electric vehicles has provided new opportunities for decarbonisation. The current government rejected the fuel-efficiency scheme and has derided electric vehicles – supposedly it might have an electric vehicles policy by mid-2020. The result of this delay is that when we get serious about the climate emergency, we will have a large fleet of some of the world’s most fuel-inefficient cars, many of them nearly new. The efficient option of providing subsidies for electric vehicles, as Norway has done, will be too slow to achieve the necessary reduction in emissions.



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