New coal export terminal must not proceed

28 July 2012

Despite UNESCO last month calling for a moratorium on new port developments in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, the reckless expansion of coal export infrastructure continues. GVK’s and Hancock’s proposed Abbot Point coal terminal 3 (T3) is sailing through the approval process.

T3 would increase coal exports by 60 million tonnes per year, not only directly threatening the Great Barrier Reef, but contributing to global warming. Assuming each tonne of coal burned emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2, when the exported coal is burned overseas it will result in CO2 emissions of 160 million tonnes per year, equal to the emissions which Australia’s domestic carbon price is intended to save. If approved, construction will begin before the end of this year.

T3 is related to the Alpha coal mine project on which federal Environment Minister decided to “stop the clock”, following what he called a “shambolic” state-level environmental assessment which included basic errors like claiming species did not exist where in fact they did, and a leaked email showing Hancock has a direct line to the Queensland government.

T3 is the first of eight proposed coal terminals undergoing environmental approval and on track to be approved in the next 18 months. Taken together, they could increase Australia’s coal export CO2 emissions to 2.5 billion tonnes per year: four times Australia’s domestic emissions, twice Saudi Arabia’s current exported emissions, and 8% of present global fossil fuel emissions. And that’s excluding proposals which have not yet entered the environmental approval process. However you slice it, the impact is gargantuan.

Australia hides behind UN accounting of greenhouse gas emissions, in which countries are responsible only for emissions occurring within their own borders. But in the real world, where UN negotiations have not only failed to agree on an international regime of national emissions targets adding up to a safe global target, but have even agreed to delay such an agreement until it will be too late, Australia’s fossil fuel exports matter a great deal. Unilateral action is required to get a momentum for global action.

Public submissions on the T3 terminal close on Monday. I urge Australian readers to take a moment to send an email.

See here for more information on Australia’s ill-advised fossil fuel export boom.

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