Observations of an expat: Australia’s King Coal  

Australians are one of the worst-hit victims of climate change, and their government’s policies are having a detrimental impact on them and rest of the world.

Federal elections scheduled for next weekend will do little to save the situation.  The two major parties appear united in putting financial gain before survival.

Climatologists predict that temperatures Down Under are set to rise by nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. The bushfire season is already nine months long and the flames have so far destroyed 14.6 million acres – territory roughly equal to twice the size of Pennsylvania.

One in six of the country’s wildlife face extinction in the next few years, according to the WWF and the vital coral banks of the Great Barrier Reef are being bleached white by rising sea temperatures.

But despite these apocalyptic facts and figures both the Australian Labour Party and the ruling coalition of the Liberal and National Party remain committed to protecting the dirtiest, most polluting, fossil fuel of them all – coal.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal – 427 million tons. The fossil fuel is also Australia’s biggest export and 50,000 jobs rely on it.

The importance of coal in the Australian economy is increasing because of the Ukraine war. Most of the industrialised world (except China) is now boycotting coal from Russia which produces 423 million tons a year. This means that the price of coal increased 400 percent to $170 per metric tonne between September 2021 and May 2022.

The Labour Party of Anthony Albanese – which is currently predicted to win the election – does play lip service to the problem of climate change. Its manifesto talks about more electric cars, solar panels and other renewable energy sources.

But its policy towards coal is dictated by a pro-coal internal party faction known as the Otis Group which is dominated by the coal trade union (the Mining and Energy Division of The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union). The mining union is especially powerful in key parliamentary seats in Queensland and New South Wales.

The Liberal/National coalition is led by one of the world’s most outspoken climate change deniers – incumbent PM Scott Morrison. He nearly boycotted the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow last November and helped to undermine the final communique. One of the conference’s objectives was to “consign coal to history.” But thanks in part to Morrison’s lobbying COP26 fell way short of that goal.

Keith Pitt, the coalition government’s Minister for Resources and Water, has gone on record to say that Australia will be “producing and exporting coal well beyond 2030.”

In the meantime the sea levels and temperatures will continue to rise. The Great Barrier Reef, the spawning ground for most of the fish of the Pacific Ocean, will shrink. Bushfires will spread. Wildlife will become extinct and Australia will remain the chief exporter of the fossil fuel that produces 40 percent of the world’s pollution.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

  • Peter Hirst 20th May '22 - 4:32pm

    Australia with its abundance of land and sun is missing a trick. More underwater cables could supply half the world with electricity if it got its act together. No wonder Aussies are turning to smaller political parties.

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