Australia’s new environment minister has taken the astonishingly audacious move of contradicting a call by the world’s leading panel of climate experts to quickly abandon coal power.
Melissa Price said on Tuesday the scientists were “drawing a very long bow” to say coal should be phased out by the year 2050.
“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mix and we make no apology for the fact our focus at the moment is getting electricity prices down,” she told ABC radio.
Ms Price was responding to a landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change, which warned of climate crisis by as early as the year 2040 in the absence of drastic intervention – including a rapid ditching of coal-fired power.
When challenged on her claim that the top body of 91 scientific experts had “drawn a long bow”, Ms Price refused to back down. She suggested ‘clean coal’ would solve the problem of emissions.
“I just don’t know how you could say, by 2050, that you’re not going to have technology that’s going to enable good clean technology when it comes to coal,” Ms Price said.
“That would be irresponsible of us to be able to commit to that.”
She also repeated the government’s claims that it would meet its emissions reduction targets.
But, as The New Daily has reported, the government’s own research shows Australia to be on track to substantially over-emit above its agreed 2030 target.
In recent days, the government quietly released – on the eve of two footy finals – new figures that showed the national greenhouse gas emissions had risen 1.3 per cent in the year to March 2018, marking the highest quarterly levels in eight years.
When asked about these numbers, Ms Price said the increase was largely explained by increased volumes of liquified gas (LNG) production.
“The most important thing in that report is that electricity emissions have declined by 13.9 per cent in the year to March 2018,” she told the ABC.
Ms Price’s reaction to Monday’s landmark UN climate report was in stark contrast to many of her global counterparts.
Denmark’s environment minister Lars Christian Lilleholt said the UN report “stresses the need for the development of radical green technologies”.
German environment minister Svenja Schulze said: “We must not lose any more time on climate protection.”
And French energy minister Francois de Rugy said the report contained “sad conclusions” that amounted to a “call to action addressed to the world”.
Former US vice president Al Gore warned “time is running out”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the findings as an “ear-splitting wake-up call to the world”.
Labor’s shadow climate and energy minister Mark Butler said the government’s response to the UN report proved it was “incapable of taking the action we need to protect the interests of our children and grandchildren”.
He added: “These are the world’s most qualified scientists who are briefed by the 194 nations of the world to provide advice on this question.”