It is anticipated that the expansions and developments of coal mines that have been allowed in Australia so far this year will add about 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to atmosphere over the course of their lifetimes. This is equivalent to nearly a third of the annual climate pollution that the country experiences.
This week, the administration of Albanese provided the go-ahead for an extension of the Gregory Crinum coal mine, which is located in central Queensland. It is a producer of metallurgical coal, which is utilized in the production of steel.
Once it is burned, it is estimated that it will contribute around 31 million tons of carbon dioxide to the environment and add 11 years to the development’s lifespan (bringing it to the middle of the 2030s). The analysis was conducted by the Australia Institute. This represents 6% of Australia’s annual carbon output. The owner, Sojitz Blue, will have the option to decommission the mine until the year 2073.
Tanya Plibersek, the minister of the environment, stated that the government was required “to make decisions with the facts as well as the national environment law” and that the safeguard mechanism of climate policy would apply to the mine. This meant that the owner of the mine would have to either purchase carbon offsets or reduce the intensity of the mine’s emissions by up to 4.9% annually.
Climate and conservation groups leveled accusations of irresponsibility and hypocrisy against the administration, pointing out that it had the ability to modify the environmental law to give it the right to prohibit new fossil fuel operations if it so chose. These accusations were made in light of the government’s vow to take decisive action regarding the climate problem.
Amanda McKenzie, the chief executive officer of the Climate Council, stated that the clearance of the mining expansion demonstrated that Australia’s environmental rules were “absolutely broken.”
“The Albanese government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to arrest this decline,” she added. “This decline has been accelerating at an alarming rate.” “Strengthening our national environment law, with climate at the heart of it, will safeguard our health, grow the economy, and protect our treasured natural places,” said the Environmental Protection Agency.
This year, the federal government and the environment department have made a number of other judgments regarding coal developments in Queensland, including the following:
Giving the Ensham thermal coal mine, which produces fuel for power stations, approval for an extension of nine more years. The coalmine tracker at the Australia Institute discovered that it would probably result in 106 million tonnes of extra emissions over the course of its lifetime.
Granting permission for the development of a modest new mine in the state of Queensland called the Isaac River metallurgical coal mine. It is anticipated that it will generate almost completely metallurgical coal and result in approximately 7 million tons of emissions over the course of its seven-year lifespan.
A decision was made that a proposed extraction of a big sample of the coal at the proposed Star coal mine site, sometimes known as a “bulk sample,” did not require a formal evaluation in order to proceed in accordance with federal environment law.
Before submitting an application to build the whole mine, the proponent is allowed to mine up to 1.5 million tonnes of coal. It is anticipated that this will result in around 3 million tons of emissions.
The open-cut coal mine at Lake Vermont will have its lifespan extended until 2063 as a result. The total amount of coal that could be mined did not rise as a result of this decision; rather, the possible lifespan of the coal increased.
The majority of these mines generate metallurgical coal, which is often referred to as coking coal, for use in the production of steel. It is anticipated that metallurgical coal will have a longer future than thermal coal due to the fact that alternatives that produce zero emissions to generate “green steel” are not as developed. Approximately sixty percent of the world’s traded metallurgical coal is supplied by Australia.
Rod Campbell, the research director of the Australia Institute, stated that more environmentally friendly methods of producing steel were being developed and that several of Queensland’s existing metallurgical coal mines had enormous accessible reserves that were projected to endure for decades, indicating that new mines were not required to meet demand.
According to him, the extension of the Gregory Crinum mine was not surprising because it had already received approval from the Queensland government, and the federal Environment Department had issued four notices related to it this year. He said this was because the mine was already exploited to its full capacity.
Because addressing climate change demands taking such measures, this new coal expansion proposal should have been halted at each and every one of its stages of development. However, nothing was done to stop it,” Campbell stated.
“We just cannot allow this situation to persist. Either the law has to be changed, or the government needs to become more imaginative in how it interprets and applies the laws that are now in place.
Plibersek and the department, according to Campbell, have demonstrated that they “know how to stop fossil fuel projects when it suits them” by allowing the approval for two “zombie” coalmines, the China Stone and Range mines, both of which had already stalled out.
Plibersek claimed that she was the first environment minister in Australian history to block a proposed coal mine. The mine in question was Clive Palmer’s proposed Central Queensland development. Plibersek also revoked licenses for the China Stone and Range project.
“We are dedicated to assisting in the transition to renewable energy on a worldwide scale. “Not only is it more economical, but it’s also more sanitary,” she explained. Because of this, within our first year in office, we were able to more than double the pace at which renewable energy projects were approved.
Plibersek has made a commitment to revise national environmental legislation within the next year, specifically the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. However, she does not intend to implement a “climate trigger,” which is a measure that would allow her the authority to take into account the impact of a project’s emissions when making decisions regarding its approval.
Kelly O’Shanassy, the head of the Australian Conservation Foundation, remarked that this was something that needed to be corrected. She stated that it is inexcusable that the national environmental rules of Australia permit the licensing of new fossil fuel projects. “It is inexcusable,”
Adam Bandt, the head of the Greens, made the following statement: “Every new coal and gas project Tanya Plibersek approves makes the climate crisis worse and puts our country at risk.”