Building bridges with LEAN on climate and Adani coal

July 29, 2017 at 7:37 pm Leave a comment

While in Wills our Federal Labor MP Peter Khalil has publicly opposed the Adani mine, we are interested in moving the ALP to a stronger position with regard to the Adani Carmichael mine. We have written to the Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN) to see if we can assist in this regard.

Firstly, we would like to find out LEAN’s position on the issue of Adani’s Carmichael mine. Does LEAN oppose the mine? If not, why not? If so, what is LEAN doing about it and how is LEAN proposing to use Labor Party processes to get Labor to adopt the only environmentally responsible position on the project – i.e. that the mine is so dangerous to humanity that it must never be built?

We welcome the valuable policy and lobbying work being done by LEAN members inside the ALP on climate policy. We have requested a meeting with a LEAN delegation based in Melbourne to discuss strategy, and to find areas of potential overlap and support.

Read our full letter here (PDF).

According to this Sydney Morning Herald article from April 2017, Labor fossil fuel policy: Lobby group’s push to leave coal in the ground, Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN) has drafted a policy which would put a ban on any public funds being used to subsidise the fossil fuel industry and shift communities reliant on mining into other industries.

LEAN co-ordinator Felicity Wade said “The fossil fuel industry is a mature industry, these projects should stand or fall on their own financial merits. LEAN also believes existing fossil fuel subsidies should be dismantled,” she said. Read an excerpt from the article below:

“If the private sector won’t fund the Adani infrastructure, it is an irresponsible government that steps in with taxpayers’ funds to prop up an un-economic proposal for private profit.”

But she added it was an “uncomfortable fact” that for Australia, and the world, to meet the emissions reduction agreement adopted in Paris in 2015, which aims to keep warming well below 2 degrees celsius, “a significant proportion” of the globe’s – and Australia’s – fossil fuel reserves would need to remain untouched.

While the draft policy does not specifically address the Carmichael mine – billed as potentially the southern hemisphere’s biggest, Ms Wade said “opening a new coal field in a time of spiralling climate change is a major problem”.

But despite concerns from some within Labor and LEAN over the Adani project, the group was not going so far as to push Bill Shorten to abandon support for the mine, which is seen as critical to re-invigorating Queensland’s economy.

“No individual mine is going to push climate change beyond 1.5 degrees,” she said.

“The entire globe has to decide how to limit the exploitation of fossil fuels and how to do it fairly. It’s hard to see how it’s in our national interest to go it alone.”

“Labor policy is built within the international framework in which fossil fuels are counted in the country in which they are burnt, not the source country.

“We need a coherent public policy response that deals with the fact that the carbon budget is finite and a significant percentage of fossil fuels still in the ground can never be exploited if we are to avoid disastrous climate change.”

To meet the Paris Agreement, Ms Wade said the international community would have to address the “supply side” of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as limiting what each country used itself.

“Australia should use its middle-power status to lead this conversation,” she said.

“With Canada, Australia is one of the only developed countries with large reserves of fossil fuels. It is in our national interest to ensure limits on fossil fuel extraction are fair while also ensuring the globe acts collectively to avoid the disaster of unfettered fossil fuel exploitation.”

Moving for no public subsidies for coal as part of Federal Labor policy is definitely an improvement and embeds the current Federal line as policy.

But we disagree that Bill Shorten should not be pushed on opposition to the Adani mine. Shadow Environment Spokeperson Mark Butler has been clear in stating he doesn’t think Adani stacks up economically or environmentally. Bill Shorten needs to listen to Mark Butler on this issue and not keep sitting on the fence.

We disagree with Ms Wade’s comment that no mine will push climate change beyond 1.5 degrees. The Adani Carmichael mine is being used to open up the Galilee basin with several other mines mooted. If you put in infrastructure for one mine, it reduces the costs for all mines. If all Galilee basin coal mines go ahead then emissions from the coal burnt will equal 705 MTCO2/year or 1.96 per cent of current annual global emissions of 36Gt CO2. This is not an insignificant contribution. The Adani Carmichael coal mine is the fuse to a carbon climate bomb.

We also agree with LEAN that existing fossil fuel subsidies should be dismantled. The Labor Party (and the Liberal Government) has so far failed to act on this, despite numerous calls at international summits for action. It has been a major political silence on this driven by the two major parties. Australian tax-based Fossil Fuel subsidies are estimated at around $11 billion per year by Market Forces.

While Labor policy is currently based on supporting the international framework of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, we think the ALP needs to start addressing just transition for coal workers in the export coal sector. The global coal market is in structural decline. Opening any new coal mines like the Carmichael mine will impact productivity and jobs from other coal mines. Labor needs to formulate a national plan for managing the phase down of export coal as the global coal market declines, to ensure a just transition for already established businesses and workers in this sector. A start would be a policy of No New Coal mines. It could implememnt this policy easily via managing coal export licences.

If Bill Shorten steps up Australia’s action on climate change, including managing the phase down of local and export coal sectors, it will be a major influence for global climate action. Australia, as a middle level country, carries a lot more influence for our economic size and we can be global climate leaders if we step up.

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Entry filed under: Adani, campaigns, coal export. Tags: , , , , .

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