Australian energy minister rules out ban on new coal mines

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen. Credit: Sky News Australia via YouTube

Australia’s energy minister has ruled out a ban on new coal mines as part of the country’s overhaul of climate policy.

“That’s not part of our agenda,” Chris Bowen said when asked directly about the prospects for a ban on the ABC’s Insiders TV program on Sunday. “It won’t be part of those negotiations.”

The government was elected on a pledge to end the country’s climate wars and last year passed landmark legislation mandating emissions cuts of 43% off 2005 levels by 2030. However, the bill left the detail on how the cuts will actually be achieved to future debate.

The overhaul of its carbon pricing policy, which aims to abate about 205 million tons by the end of the decade, is one of the first skirmishes. The so-called safeguard mechanism would cover about 215 entities that account for around a quarter of Australia’s total emissions. High-polluting facilities would be forced to reduce pollution or pay costs.

The Green Party, who control a crucial block of votes that the government is courting for other legislative priorities, is trying to push the government to go further and rule out new coal and gas operations. They are also concerned about the role of using carbon credits to offset emissions.

Bowen defended the use of such offsets, saying they were essential for industries such as cement to keep operating without laying people off or reducing production.

“When you’re embarking on such an ambitious proposal, you should provide flexibility,” Bowen said. “My job is to get emissions down from all our emitters.”

(By Emily Cadman)


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