Australia left behind in transition from coal: COP26

COP26

Coal operation at the Mt Owen mine in New South Wales. Image: Glencore.

Dozens of countries and multinationals at COP26 have released a statement outlining intentions to transition from coal power to clean power, with Australia a notable omission from the list.

The Global coal to clean power transition statement was signed by almost 50 countries at the United Nations Conference of the Parties climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

A number of subnationals, including two of the United States, and the Australian Capital Territory Government, were also a part of the statement.

“We, the undersigned, noting that coal power generation is the single biggest cause of global temperature increases, recognise the imperative to urgently scale-up the deployment of clean power to accelerate the energy transition,” the statement began.

The statement recognised the need to make the transition suitable to the ongoing wellbeing of those employed by the coal sector and the communities that benefit from it.

“Our shared vision is to accelerate a transition away from unabated coal power generation, as is essential to meet our shared goals under the Paris Agreement, in a way that benefits workers and communities and ensures access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030,” it stated.

The statement came on the same day that 23 countries made new commitments to phase out coal power, including five of the world’s top 20 coal power-using countries in South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland and Ukraine.

The movement is estimated to shift about $US17.8 billion ($24.04 billion) out of the fossil fuel industry and into clean power technology.

COP26 president Alok Sharma said this was always the intention behind the summit.

“From the start of the UK’s Presidency, we have been clear that COP26 must be the COP that consigns coal to history,” Sharma said.

“With these ambitious commitments we are seeing today, the end of coal power is now within sight.”

The statement came on the same day that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that Australian coal exports had climbed to $16.3 billion in the three months to September 2021.

Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt was largely positive about the export figures, saying coal continued to underpin strong export figures for Australia.

“Coal has been an outstanding performer… up 80 per cent on the same period last year and 47 per cent higher than for the previous three months to June 2021,” Pitt said.

“Just as iron ore’s incredibly strong run cools, soaring demand for our coal and liquefied natural gas is fuelling a surge in export revenues.

“Our resources exports continue to bring hundreds of billions of dollars into the country and keep thousands of Australians in high-value, high-skilled jobs – particularly in regional Australia.”

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