According to a survey, the quantity of greenhouse gas seeping from Australian coal mines has been greatly under-reported.
And unless immediate action is taken, the government may be unable to meet its carbon reduction objectives.
The quantity of methane produced from coal mines was found to be double the government estimates in a recent analysis.
Although Australia’s new government has promised to reduce emissions quicker than its predecessor, it has not ruled out financing new coal mines.
Reducing methane emissions, a strong greenhouse gas, has resurfaced as a top priority for international leaders.
More than 100 nations, including the United States, the European Union, and Indonesia, the world’s largest coal exporter, pledged last year to limit methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
Despite the fact that Australia is the world’s second-largest coal exporter and one of the world’s top methane emitters, it did not sign the promise.
Over a 20-year span, methane has more than 80 times the heating potential of carbon dioxide. It’s thought to be to blame for about a third of global warming since pre-industrial times.
According to the federal industry department, Australia’s coal mines generated 898,000 tonnes of methane in 2019.
However, existing methods of measuring such emissions are incorrect, according to a recent analysis from UK think-tank Ember, in the worst scenario by a factor of ten.
Previous estimates were focused on how much coal was produced rather than how much gas was leaking from mines, according to the paper.
The International Energy Agency has accepted recent satellite-based data that has provided a more realistic picture of pollution (IEA).
According to the paper, the IEA estimates that Australian coal mines released 1.8 million tonnes of methane in 2021, which is double the most recent publicly recorded data.
The report’s author, Dr Sabina Assan, stated, “Methane escaping from Australian coal mines has roughly double the climatic effect per year than all of Australia’s automobiles.”
“At this rate, methane leaks from coal mines will put Australia’s modest 2030 climate goals out of reach.”
The government has set a goal of reducing emissions by 43 percent by 2030, but it falls short of allies such as the United Kingdom and the United States.
The good news is that coal mine methane emissions may be reduced swiftly, according to the analysis, which was commissioned by a climate change advocacy group.
“In the fight against climate change, [it] really is the low-hanging fruit,” Dr. Assan remarked.
The first step, according to the report, is to halt all new coal projects, of which dozens are now being examined across Australia.
Early retirement of Australia’s “gassiest” mines, as well as restricting “venting” – the discharge of gas build-ups in underground coal mines into the air – and finding long-term applications or storage for methane, will all assist significantly.
Existing solutions have the potential to reduce Australia’s methane emissions by around 45 percent if implemented to all underground mines, according to the analysis.
The government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has not responded to the findings, although it has previously stated that it will not put “emissions intensive” businesses, such as mining, at a disadvantage to global rivals.
It has also stated that new coal mines would be supported if they are economically viable, and that coal-fired power plants will not be forced to close early.