In a move hardly in keeping with the recent Paris Climate Change agreement, Federal (Against the) Environment Minister Greg Hunt has given approval to the revised expansion plans for Queensland’s Abbot Point coal terminal. If Paris signalled one thing, surely it was the end of coal.
The approval is a big boost for Indian companies Adani and GVK, which have ambitions to build coal mines in Queensland's Galilee Basin and export via the expanded Abbot Point, though one wonders if these projects will go ahead given that banks are now wary of funding large coal developments.
Just last week the International Energy Agency (IAE) dramatically downgraded its expectations for future coal demand, and said it was not likely the Galilee projects “will be operational in 2020, if ever”.
As finally approved, the plan for the dredged material to be dumped at sea was changed to that material being dumped on land, but of course this does not alter the dangers posed by it being dumped close to the reef and wetlands, and, very significantly, the expansion of increased coal exports.
Minister Hunt’s approval has quite rightly enraged environmentalists, who have been concerned about the dredged material being dumped at sea, very close to the Great Barrier Reef. Environmental campaigner Moira Williams said Mr Hunt’s approval was at odds with Australia’s commitments at the recent climate change conference in Paris.
“With coal prices at an all-time low, support for climate action and protecting the Great Barrier Reef at an all-time high, the Turnbull government is treading a dangerous line in approving this climate and reef-wrecking mega coal project. Their actions will come back to bite them at the ballot box next year,” she said (SMH December 23).
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the approval was an important step toward the creation of thousands of new jobs on the Galilee Basin mines. Given the IAE’s forecasts such statements certainly carry the stench of hypocrisy, and his comment that “The port expansion has to be good news for regional communities doing it tough, like Bowen, Mackay and Townsville,” is nothing more than electoral pork barrelling.
ALP Shadow Resources minister Gary Gray said Labor welcomed the approval, too. “There is an important future for Australian coal in the global market place in helping to warm and light homes, cook and cool food, and lift people from poverty,” he said. This is the usual blatant emotional blackmail we have become used to from the fossil fuel champions, and needs to be shown up as the total lie it is, as renewables will do the job much more cheaply and won’t alter the climate of those Messrs Gray, Hunt and co are claiming to support.
Thank goodness one political party can see through the untruths of Big Coal and its Liberal, Nationals and Labor supporters. “Minister Hunt’s dangerous decision is bad news for our reef, jobs and the climate,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens Climate Change spokeswoman, said.
She is also aware that coal is a dying industry that is already sacking workers. They urgently need a transition plan, not disingenuous statements about thousands of jobs that, if they ever do materialise, will be very, very short term.
“The Greens have a plan to provide local jobs in mine rehabilitation and in the job-rich clean energy industry by building 90 per cent renewable energy by 2030,” Senator Waters said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.