Just a week ago, Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, emphatically stated that most fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if the rise in the world’s average temperature is to be kept within 2 Degrees Celsius.
Carney’s words don’t have much weight in Australia. Prime Minister, Tony Abbott declared at a ceremony for the opening of a large new coal mine:
“Coal is good for humanity. . . Energy is what sustains our prosperity, and coal is the world’s principal energy source and it will be for many decades to come.”
Abbott counts on countries like India and China to continue to import coal from Australia. Given the recent performance of these two countries in buidling coal-fired power stations, his expectations are not unreasonable.
Take the case of India: at the last UN Climate Summit, the Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change disagreed that India had an obligation to reduce GHG emissions by burning less coal in the generation of electricity. He referred to the need to raise millions of Indian citizens from poverty, a task that will require a very large increase of inexpensive energy, i.e. electricity generated by coal.
India can find moral support in a recent pronouncement of Bill Gates, who said poor countries “desperately need cheap sources of energy now to fuel economic growth that lifts families out of poverty. They can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions and we can’t expect them to wait for the technology to get cheaper.” When it exports coal, Australia is not significantly increasing its own emissions, as this coal is burnt and GHG’s emitted in another country.
India’s level of emissions have increased and will continue to increase dramatically (along with China’s).
The coal industry has found champions among several countries just when needed: twelve months before the “do or die” Paris climate negotiations.
If the Federal Conservatives remain in office Canada will be one.