Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull brushed off a call for a ban on new coal mines by prominent citizens who claim that the country’s plan to double coal exports will be detrimental to its efforts to curb climate change.
As many as 61 eminent Australians, including scientists, rugby players and religious leaders, among others, wrote to world leaders Tuesday, urging them to halt construction of new coal mines when they meet in Paris for a climate summit next month.
Signatories of the letter, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, argue that Australia’s massive coal exports is largely responsible for environmental damage in places like China and India, where the coal is burnt to produce cheap energy.
"Australia has a larger share of the seaborne coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the world oil market," the open letter stated.
However, Turnbull dismissed the message, telling reporters that stopping coal mining in Australia “would make not the blindest bit of difference to global emissions.”
"If Australia stopped exporting coal, the countries to which we export it would simply buy it from somewhere else," he added.
Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten, meanwhile, told the Guardian that right-wing elements in the Australian government were forcing its citizens to rely on coal exports and in the process, missing out on investment opportunities in renewable energy
Turnbull said coal will continue to play a significant part in the global energy mix and would help lift millions out of energy poverty in developing countries like China and India. The statement was in line with earlier comments by the country’s energy and resources minister Josh Frydenberg , who said that there was a “strong moral case” for Australian coal after the government approved Adani’s Carmichael mine in early October.
Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, recently endorsed mega coal projects like Adani’s $16 billion Carmichael project in Queensland and Shenhua’s $1.2 billion Watermark mine in New South Wales, according to reports.
Australia pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by about a fourth by 2030, a target that environmental watchdogs say is not enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Centigrade.