More coal mines equal more poverty: Oxfam

Climate Change, General, Media Releases, News article written on the 22 May 2017

New coal mines in Australia must be banned – starting with the contentious Adani proposal – as part of a genuine effort to tackle poverty, combat climate change and secure energy for all, Oxfam Australia said today.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said a new report, More Coal Equals More Poverty, highlighted the reality that Australia’s current stance on coal was fundamentally at odds with the global climate crisis and the shift to renewable energy.

“The Federal Government’s failure to curb Australia’s carbon pollution and obstinate push to expand the nation’s coal exports continues despite the overwhelming evidence that coal and climate change is putting communities in Australia and around the world at increasing risk of harm,” Dr Szoke said.

“Against the backdrop of an imperilled Great Barrier Reef and extreme weather disasters, Australia’s carbon pollution is continuing to climb — the tragic consequence of more than a decade of climate policy paralysis and short-term political opportunism.

“The real cost of burning more coal will be measured in further entrenched poverty – through the escalating impacts of climate change and humanitarian disasters, increasing hunger, and deaths and disease caused by pollution.

“Australia must stop clinging to technologies of the past and help bring an end to the fossil fuel era. This means committing to no new coalmines – including Adani’s proposed mega mine in Queensland – and ruling out public funding for new coal infrastructure. It means rapidly phasing out coal from our own electricity supply and increasing support for renewable energy in developing countries.”

Dr Szoke said recognition of coal’s immense toll on vulnerable communities and why more coal would entrench poverty had been largely absent from the battle over climate and energy policy in Australia.

She said coal’s inability to meet the energy needs of the world’s poor, and an understanding of the scale and pace of action needed to meet Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement to help limit warming to 1.5C, had also been largely absent from public debate.

“For millions of families, including our neighbours in the Pacific, climate change is not a distant threat but a real and present danger that is costing lives,” Dr Szoke said.

Dr Szoke said Oxfam’s report also highlighted the dramatic acceleration in renewable energy plans in China and India – an indictment on our wealthy nation when compared to our slow progress.

“China has suspended more than100 planned or partly constructed coal-fired power plants and plans to invest more than $493 billion in renewables through to 2020,” Dr Szoke said. “India’s latest National Energy Plan projects it will reach 275GW of renewable energy capacity by 2027 and will have no need to begin constructing new coal-fired power plants over the next decade.”

Dr Szoke said moving away from fuel to renewable energy was also crucial to bringing electricity to the more than a billion people living without it.

“Renewable energy is set to power the fair economies of the future, and Australia can make a choice to be part of that,” Dr Szoke said.  “Through its 2017 review of climate change policies, the Australian Government has the opportunity to set a credible long-term goal and plan of action.

“Australia must shift to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, achieve zero emissions well before 2040 and increase its support for climate change adaptation and renewable energy in developing nations.”

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