George Monbiot is certainly not keen on a Coalition victory this weekend. Apparently Tony Abbott’s climate policies are
about removing the social and environmental protections enjoyed by all Australians to allow the filthy rich to become richer – and filthier.
Read Monbiot, though, and it all comes down to coal as well as the repeal of the carbon tax and replacement with an ‘underfunded’ direct action scheme.
Let’s start with his second point. Will the global climate be any different if Australia meets its 2020 emissions reduction target? Clearly the climate is unaffected by Australia’s target. Whether Australia fails to meet the target, meets the target, or even exceeds the target will not affect the climate in any way.
Therefore we should be indifferent between an underfunded direct action scheme or a fully funded direct action scheme – both will affect the climate in the same way. The advantage of an underfunded scheme is that the resources can be used for more valuable purposes, including, for example, cleaning up environmental damage in various parts of Australia. In fact Tony Abbott’s “green army” will more directly and significantly benefit the environment than any policy it might implement to reduce CO2 emissions. There is little doubt that the pursuit of various emissions reductions schemes in Australia at vast cost has come at the expense of the environment.
Then on his second point, coal. Monbiot writes
Abbott will dump coal onto the bonfire of environmental protection lit by some of the state governments.
But let’s get the facts. The majority of Australian coal is exported, not consumed domestically. It is consumption, not production of coal, that causes global emissions to rise.
Is Monbiot wanting Australia to act as some form of global cop forcing other countries to reduce their use of coal?
And if Australia doesn’t export coal, won’t these importing countries just use some other source of coal or even more polluting energy source?
Moreover, does Monbiot want to increase poverty amongst those poor countries which import our coal? Because that would be the result. If Australia decided to stop all exports of coal, it would increase world poverty.
Globally 42 per cent of the world’s electricity supply is generated with coal. And then there is the production of iron and steel with coking coal.
The World Coal Association records that Australia is the number one exporter of coking coal – 140Mt in 2011, compared with 63 Mt from the USA, 28Mt from Canada, 20 Mt from Mongolia and 14 Mt from Russia.
The major importers of coking coal are Japan (52Mt), China (38Mt), Korea (32Mt), India (19Mt), Brazil (12Mt) and Germany (9Mt).
These countries depend on our coal exports. They provide employment to poor people and help provide the steel the world demands.
Over the past 10 years, our exports of coal have increased by more than 50 per cent.
So when Monbiot says Australia should stop mining coal so as to save the Australian environment, I want to know what he thinks the likes of China, India, Korea and Japan should do instead? Noting also that while Australia is the major exporter of coal, it is by no means the largest producer of coal. The World Coal Association lists the 10 largest coal producers (2011) as:
- China, 3471MT
- USA, 1004Mt
- India, 585Mt
- Australia, 414Mt
- Indonesia, 376Mt
- Russia, 334Mt
- South Africa, 253Mt
- Germany, 189Mt
- Poland, 139Mt
- Kazakhstan, 117Mt.
We should celebrate our coal production and exports. Coal reduces world poverty – our exports of coal are probably our single biggest contribution to the fight against world poverty.