The green light for the Adani/Carmichael mega coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin is confronting.
But all our leaders appear fearless, attracted by the prospect of jobs and growth.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor leader Bill Shorten all support what is declared to become a massive 60 million tonne per year continuous stream of black coal via rail and ship direct to Adani’s power stations in India when fully operational.
There are some legal technical appeals outstanding but after seven years in the consent phase all governmental approvals are now ‘go’.
The project, including the first major open cut coal mine in Australia for a reported 40 years, is confronting because it comes after the Paris climate change mitigation agreement.
That agreement, coincidentally, has now been ratified formally by both Australia and India.
It comes as the global fossil fuel divestment movement, publicly supported by all domestic and international climate science and environment organisations, HRH Prince Charles, Al Gore, His Holiness Pope Francis, Naomi Klein, and Bill McKibben’s 350.org (among many other crowd-funded activists) successfully has been applying moral suasion to corporations, universities, high wealth individuals and superannuation funds to make investment in fossil fuels unethical, even a virtual ‘crime’ against humanity.
According to Pope Francis climate change perpetration is a “sin against God”.
Where’s the money coming from?
There remains great hope from those mounting resistance to Adani/Carmichael that the $16.5billion in finance required plus the estimated $4billion in construction cost for the 400 km rail line from the mine to Adani’s Abbot Point coal loader will not be forthcoming.
But the business case for taxpayer investment in the rail line may be justified when other planned Galilee Basin coal mines – MacMines, GVK, Waratah – are taken into account.
Adani Group chairman, Gautam Adani, in Australia this week, informally met PM Turnbull and joined Premier Palaszczuk for the green light announcement in Townsville.
Although the Adani group has suffered adverse publicity through corruption, tax evasion and environmental ‘vandalism’ allegations in India and Africa, neither Mr Adani nor his Australian executives have ever been criminally charged or prosecuted with any offences or regulatory breaches.
Mr Adani is reported to be India’s wealthiest man, with a personal value of $A7billion.
Exactly what that negotiated price of Galilee Basin coal will be is subject to commercial-in-confidence negotiations between Adani Group and the Queensland Government.
While Australian banks and super funds are not expected to invest because of the likelihood of reputational damage with customers and members, Adani is reported to have many other potential partners ready when the coal price and other costings are accessed through due diligence.
Premier Palaszczuk told The New Daily: “The royalties will be paid to Queensland and will be invested in Queensland on behalf of Queenslanders.”
Adani has committed to building its Australian headquarters in Townsville.
There are said to be 10,000 jobs in the construction phase and 1500 when operational.
“I have secured a commitment from Adani that these jobs will be offered to regional Queenslanders. They will not use foreign workers on 457 visas to deliver the project,” the Premier said.
Adani was also proposing to invest $A200million in a large scale solar project near Moranbah. No Queensland taxpayer money would be put into the rail line, the port or the mine.
What about the Great Barrier Reef?
Apart from despair that Adani/Carmichael will massively exacerbate climate change when all that coal is burnt in Indian power stations, the other galvanising fear is the Great Barrier Reef, already in danger of losing its World Heritage status because of coral bleaching.
Premier Palaszczuk insisted to The New Daily that the Queensland Labor Party had not misled electors in public commitments the party made before its surprise win at the last state election.
“We have ensured dredged spoil is not dumped in the Great Barrier Reef marine park. My government is protecting the Great Barrier Reef. We have committed an extra $100million to protect the reef,” the Premier said.
She did not support an earlier Turnbull government concession that dredged spoil at Abbot Point could be dumped in the Caley Valley wetlands nearby.
Instead, the spoil will be used for ‘land reclamation in the port development area’.
Significantly this week on top of federal support for the mega coal mine, the Turnbull government rapidly backed away from any objective consideration of a carbon intensity trading system, even with expert advice that an active carbon market could reduce power costs for consumers by $15 billion over ten years.
Rejecting criticism from the Prime Minister, Premier Palaszczuk has re-committed the state of Queensland to a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.
Regardless of these assurances and offsets, the climate change movement is now expected to launch the mother of all campaigns to stop the Adani/Carmichael coal project.
But with pro-coal Donald Trump soon to be in the White House, it’s the fearless political sinners and ‘unethical’ investors who appear to be in the ascendant.
God save the planet.