Conservationists have the coal industry in their sights

Coal mining in Australia is at a cross roads and if expansions continue Australia will become the second largest contributor of CO2 emissions globally, a Greenpeace report released yesterday states.

The new report, ‘The Point of No Return’ found that if coal export expansion continues it will result in catastrophic climate change.

“Clearly coal is in demand as a source of cheap energy around the world and until we find a viable base load form of renewable technology to replace it, coal is going to continue to be in demand,” Tim Wilson, spokesman for the Institute of Public Affairs said.

But according to Greenpeace, if proposed coal projects in Australia go ahead, by the year 2020 Australia will be emitting 1,200 million tonnes of CO2 annually, making us the second biggest offender after China.

Greenpeace says this will put the Great Barrier Reef at risk, and threaten its world heritage status.

According to Greenpeace in 2011 alone, 1,722 ships carrying coal tracked through the natural wonder and with coal project expansions earmarked along the Queensland coast, that number is expected to rise to 10,150 by 2020.

Greenpeace chief executive David Ritter, last night told The Project that the expansion of coal projects will directly contribute to a 2 degree temperature increase and destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

When asked if it is possible to make such a claim accurately Ritter responded saying the published report is based on the Federal Government’s own figures and models completed by “independent scientists”.

The coal industry is an integral part of Australia’s economy, according to the Australian Coal Association, the coal industry directly employs 40,000 people, and another 100,000 indirectly.

The sector is also estimated to spend $16 billion on Australian goods and services each year.

But Ritter disagrees: “What we’re talking about here is an out of control industry that sends most of its profits overseas”.

Last month Australian Mining reported mining house BHP said the risk of climate change and wild weather influenced its decision to upgrade port developments at Hay Point in Queensland.

BHP ferrous and coal head Marcus Randolph said at the time that cyclones were less frequent and less severe when the company’s original terminal was built 30 years ago.

He said the decision to replace a jetty at Hay Point was made after cyclone Yasi hit north Queensland in 2011.

“If cyclone Yasi had hit Hay Point, we would have lost that facility,” he said.

“So it is a recognition that as these cyclones become more severe, we need to have facilities that are more able to withstand them.”

However, recently the WWF announced no new coal ports were needed along the Great Barrier Reef Coastline as existing facilities were only operating at 52 per cent capacity.

And so the debate between conservationists and the coal sector continues.

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