Australia’s coal shipments face a ‘deadline,’ Greens leader says

Coal-loading terminal at Hay Point in Mackay Region, Queensland. Image courtesy of BHP Group.

Greens Party leader Adam Bandt has warned the Australian government needs to start moving away from coal exports to prop up its bottom line, saying net zero goals in major trade partners will cut into fossil fuel earnings.

Bandt said three of Australia’s biggest export markets for thermal coal — Japan, South Korea and Taiwan — had all pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or 2060. The process to decarbonize their economies to meet those targets would act as a “deadline” for Australian coal exports, he added.

“It’s going to be increasingly untenable for the government to maintain its desire to keep opening new coal and gas projects,” Bandt said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

The Greens Party has a significant number of senators in Australia’s upper house, making Bandt’s support vital to passing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s policy agenda. Since he was elected in May, Albanese has attempted to push greater climate action in Australia, including increasing emission cuts targets to 43% by 2030 and rolling out a strategy for greater use of electric vehicles.

However, Australia’s economy is heavily reliant on its mining and minerals exports, with the trade surplus hitting a record high in August off the back of strong growth in the resource sector. Coal is forecast to generate about A$104 billion ($73 billion) of export earnings in the year through June 30.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal and the second largest exporter of thermal coal.

Bandt has called on Albanese to go further in his action on climate change, including committing to end all new coal and gas mines in Australia. Albanese’s rejection of a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects is undermining his government’s promise of bolder decarbonization policies, according to campaigners.

“These weak targets could be blown out of the water in the next 12 months or so as the government approves some very big coal and gas projects that are on the books in Australia at the moment,” Bandt said.

(By Ben Westcott)

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