The Australian government again rejected UN demands to stop using coal by making it clear to the body of the United Nations that the decision to do so or not lies with the government and not with an ‘outside entity.’
At a forum at the Australian National University, Selwin Hart, UN undersecretary general and special advisor for climate action pressed the Australian government to come up with a concrete plan to phase out coal use completely.
“If the world does not rapidly phase out coal, climate change will wreak havoc right across the Australian economy: from agriculture to tourism, and right across the services sector,” Hart warned. “Similarly, [it will affect] construction, housing and the property sector in a country where the vast majority live on or near a coastline.”
“National governments responsible for 73 per cent of global emissions have now committed to net zero by mid-century. We urge Australia to join them as a matter of urgency. All Pacific small island nations have made this commitment,” the UN official added.
Australia’s Resources Minister Keith Pitt responded categorically to the UN’s demands by citing the country’s sovereignty in making such decisions.
“The future of this crucial industry will be decided by the Australian Government, not a foreign body that wants to shut it down costing thousands of jobs and billions of export dollars for our economy,” Pitt said, according to the Australian Associated Press.
In July 2021 Australia saw a 26 percent increase in coal exports, which meant $12.5 billion in revenue for the Australian economy.
“Coal will continue to generate billions of dollars in royalties and taxes for state and federal governments, and directly employ over 50,000 Australians,” Pitt added.
Hart said there is scientific evidence of the need to reduce global emissions by 45 percent this decade to keep the global warming limit to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
To do this, the UN explains, wealthy nations, those that make up 73 percent of global emissions that include Australia, must completely abandon coal use by 2030, while the target for the rest of the world was placed in 2040.
Taking 2005 levels of emissions, the Climate Change Authority of the UN initially set a target to reduce emissions of 45-65 percent in 2030 for Australia, but the government rejected the demand and maintained its own 26-28 percent target.
According to The Guardian the Australian prime minister has declared himself in favor of reducing emissions to zero by mid-century, although so far he has not formalized any concrete action plan.
Hart said that investors are abandoning the fossil fuel industry to invest in renewables and that this in itself shows that ‘the days of coal are numbered’.
The national newspaper The Australian published a series of letters from readers in which Australian citizens presented their strong condemnations of the UN’s attempts to steer the course of their country’s economy.
Geoff Ellis of Smithfield, Queensland wrote: “It is important to revisit why the UN was ever established in the first place; for it was never to act as world government dictating what individual nations should do.”
Ellis said the 1942 creation of the UN was to “to defend independence for member states and to be engaged ‘in the common struggle’ against forces “seeking to subjugate the world.”
“Independence for member states never implied that the UN could dictate policy in a sovereign state,” the Australian reader claimed.
Dale Ellis of Innisfail, Queensland, opined:
“Coal’s exports have been pivotal in strengthening our economic resilience. In 2019-20 alone, coal’s export earnings added $33.8bn to the national economy.”
“For decades, coal-fired power plants have been providing the reliable, stable and secure energy our industries and businesses need to remain viable,” added Dale who bet further, ” we should ignore the UN’s outbursts of climate alarmism and continue exporting coal, and build new coal plants to replace those marked for retirement.”