Queensland government clears way for coal projects to strand themselves

Intro

Queensland’s new Labor government has cleared the way for huge coal developments in the Galilee basin, reaching a deal with Indian coal giants Adani and GVK on the Abbot point terminal expansion and resulting dredge spoil dumping. The three million cubic metres of dredge spoil removed during the proposed port expansion will now have to be dumped at the port itself, not on the reef or nearby wetlands, with an Environmental Impact Statement due to be complete by end of year. The government has also remained firm on its position of not providing taxpayer support for the projects to expand the port or link it to the mines with new rail infrastructure. While the announcement is an improvement on the previous Liberal National coalition government position, the dredging and increased shipping that would result from the port expansion stills risk an “in danger” ruling for the Great Barrier Reef from UNESCO. With the price of coal shooting through the floor, renewables increasingly challenging and beating coal on cost, and financial scandals and accusations of misleading behavior plaguing Adani, serious questions hang over the project’s overall viability. Adani’s project is increasingly looking like a white elephant, so the State Government’s deal could be seen as a savvy way to avoid blame if it falls over. However, its comments on the decision – that Labor are “no fools” and future economic development relies on coal mining – fail to reconcile the heavy risks in store for QLD if its economic star remains hitched to coal. There will be no coal industry in a world acting on climate change, where coal assets end up stranded in carbon bubble, or there will be no reef with a coal industry and its worsening impact on the local environment and global climate. Either way, QLD and Australia loses with coal.

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  • MT @GreenpeaceAustP: QLD gov announce plans to dump Abbot Pt dredge spoil at T2  http://t.co/NozaBa8SGH #savethereef http://t.co/Q7i83Xdl0j

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Key Points

  • The global tide is turning against coal. Not only has the coal market dived, but new investments in coal plants are proving ruinously uneconomic as clean energy booms. The future remains grim as China looks to peak and cap coal, and world governments increasingly vocalise the total fossil fuel phase-out in climate discussions.
  • Coal expansion and reef protection are mutually exclusive. To argue both can coexist ignores every warning put forward by experts and scientific evidence. Dredging and increased ship traffic create direct and local damage on the reef, while pollution from burning the vast amount of coal the mines produce increases global warming and ocean acidification. These pressures are already exerting a heavy toll on the reef and the tourism industry it supports, increasing these pressures will push them into further decline.

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Key quotes

  • “Many Queenslanders voted to protect the Great Barrier Reef and they are going to be disappointed that Labor is letting the Reef be dredged, treated as a highway for coal ships, and cooked by climate change. It’s a sick joke that the Labor Government is describing building the world’s largest coal port in the Great Barrier Reef in age of climate change as “environmentally sustainable”. If the Palaszczuk Government wants to protect the Reef and save it from World Heritage ‘In Danger’ listing, it should put an end to more fossil fuel exports through the Reef.” Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters.
  • “Today my government sends a clear message: we can protect the Great Barrier Reef, and we can foster economic development and create jobs. I am determined to deliver on my election commitments, and that includes no dumping of capital dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area, no dumping of dredge material in the nationally significant Caley Valley wetlands, and no taxpayer funding for capital dredging and the disposal of dredge spoil.” QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
  • “We’re no fools. We realise that jobs have to come from economic development, and economic development in this state has a lot to do with mining. So we encourage mining, especially in the Galilee Basin, because we know that if the area is opened up, others will follow.” State development minister Anthony Lynham.
  • “Obviously there’s no point in damaging the reef, dredging in the waters, if all we end up with is a white elephant or a stranded asset.” Coordinator with the North Queensland Conservation Council, Wendy Tubman.
  • “WWF has repeatedly called for a longer jetty at Abbot Point to avoid the majority of dredging,” Matthieson said. “Better utilisation of existing ports could deliver the same economic benefits without unnecessarily damaging the reef.” WWF reef campaigner Louise Matthieson.
  • “Premier Palaszczuk’s plans will pave the way for construction of up to nine new coalmines, accelerating climate change and ocean acidification – processes that will turn the Great Barrier Reef into a coral graveyard.” Greenpeace campaigner Shani Tager.

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More tweets

  • RT @yamapaul: Don’t trust Adani with the Great Barrier Reef: http://t.co/CUHRSJ6Qn3 via @YouTube #savethereef
  • RT @Solabis: Dredging in Great Barrier Reef allowed, says Labor http://t.co/z42sJpwOO4 Disappointment #qldpol #gbr #Savethereef #auspol