Why the Coal Story Spells Doom – Part 4

The Australian local renewable energy endeavors survive and are becoming faster and urgent despite lack of structured support from the Federal Administration. The federal government appears to have erected a huge road block between itself and the world. Its Paris Agreement commitment has been thwarted and kept aside, with no new policy or intervention backing what is already been done. “Climate Solutions Package” was announced in February 2019, which is a sketchy revamp of the earlier one on climate, very blatantly showcasing a lack of seriousness by the present governance. It is continuing to bank on old policies and funds like the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) now re-named the “Climate Solutions Fund”. The ERF is flagged as the trump card of Australia’s role in environmental policy and legislation. Australia also flagrantly walked out of the Green Climate Fund, no more contributing to supporting developing countries mitigation labors. But the icing on the cake was the country’s continued support for coal powered energy projects and the cherry, its new colossal interest and approval of what could possibly be the biggest coal mine in the world, the Adani mine in Queensland.

The Great Barrier Reef is the greatest example of what climate change is doing to Australia’s world heritage site. Coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017, served on the plate by record-breaking warm sea temperatures, have resulted in cruelly damaging two-thirds of the reef. The reef’s convalescence has been slow at best. Australia’s Greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for the warming, internal climate. Marsupial and other species, distinct to Australia are slowly phasing out from the land due to inability to adapt to increasingly warmer climates. Industries like agriculture, forestry and fisheries are vulnerable to this change in Australia. Crops and horticulture have altered growing season and changed regularity and force of heatwaves and storms. Short of action, Australia is projected to warm as much as 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2090. Australia lived its worst drought in 2018. In November 2018, the Queensland fought nearly 200 fires. Livestock and food shortage may become a living reality in Australia by 2050. The Australian Medical Association also declared climate change as a menace to human life and health.

And yet… Australia remains oblivious to the serious consequences of supporting coal projects. The Australian government will give $4.4bn in effective subsidies to Adani’s Carmichael coal project. The mine under much debate for a decade now finally saw its plans set. It was regarded a potential threat to species surviving in the region. However, the government’s approval supposedly comes with a few alterations which will ensure that mining operations do not wipe out or anyway threaten the natural ecosystem of the region. Environmental conservationist dread, six other mines to be approved in the area, will emerge soon following this decision, which is about 400km (248 miles) inland from the east coast.

There is much discourse on the present emission rates in Australia. Many in Australia are making peace with its low levels of carbon emissions. It contributes 1.3% of global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity, representing 3% of the overall amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere, making up 0.04% of the whole atmosphere. Why then whether they burn coal or not is an issue say many.  Arguments range from, the burning of coal in the country as opposed to Australia’s coal exports that burn overseas. There seems to be a clear washing off hands, of any moral obligation in favor of economic growth here. Australia export ethics can be described ambiguous at best.

Australia houses a small population. Carbon emission compared to more contributing countries like India and china, the emission rates can be seen in a different light. Australia accounts for 1.3% of the emission rate and covers 0.3% of the global population as per a report. The case rests here.

The abstruse surface Australia stands on today, tugs at a regressive approach to where the rest of the world is heading. This is not with acceptance.  At The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Tuvalu, Australia attempted to underplay its role as an emitter when the island nations discussed their predicament. Island nations around the world are the most affected by global climate change, though being the least contributors to its escalation.

Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s Prime Minister, said he was disappointed in the outcome. “We came together in a nation that risks disappearing to the seas, but unfortunately we settled for the status quo in our communique,” he said. Watering down Pacific nations plea, with a lump of coal will forever be sanctified as an immortal representation of Australia’s voice in the Global Climate Change fight.

Richie Merzian, Climate and Energy program director at The Australia Institute, said the group’s research revealed Mr. Morrison’s “carbon credits loophole is equivalent to eight years of fossil fuel emissions for the rest of the Pacific and New Zealand — and the Pacific rightly asked Australia to cancel them”.

Amidst warnings from the UN and the growing concern of the Pacific Island nations, Australia marches on with one foot in coal and the other hanging loose.

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