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Jeremy Tager: Coal and Climate Forum.
October 11/2010, ANU.

Paola Cassoni from QLD told the terrible story of how her privately owned 8000 hectare nature refuge is now slated to become an enormous coal mine pit. This is despite its status as part of the National Reserve System. As Clive Palmer’s coal mine is in the State interest, she has no rights to prevent it going ahead. The landowner must allow companies access to drill many test holes and eventually must sell. “We are faced with the absurd irony, that in the 21st Century with all that we know about Australia’s biodiversity crisis and the threat of climate change, that a protected area rich in biodiversity and with carbon stores intact could be sacrificed for the sake of producing more climate changing coal.

This case reveals a stunning contradiction in Australian government priorities and policies, which aim to conserve biodiversity on protected areas, but yet which affords no protection for these areas if minerals are found beneath the soil.” [Ref: http://bimblebox.org/%5D

Jeremy Tager; head of the Greenpeace political unit in Canberra, recalled a 150 year old coal town Acland in QLD condemned to death where houses were removed to make way way for a coal mine. “We don’t have a clue on how to measure the kind of losses we are facing when it comes to the madness of coal and that’s not just in terms of climate change…. but also in terms of communities, ways of life, history and memory.” he said. [For information about Acland see http://candobetter.org/node/1767%5D

“Our addiction to coal has become a kind of madness. We all rationalise it, internalise it, try and make sense of it as though there is some logic to it, but how do you make sense of an industry that is so out of control where you can lose nature reserves and food producing land has no protection, where communities matter less than coal. ?”

“Where at a political level the devotion to coal is so far beyond rationality….how many politicians have you heard say we cant do anything about coal because its the back bone of the economy. Martin Ferguson and Anna Bligh say that all time.”

“We have moved in a political sense beyond reason. The royalties that are paid by the coal industry in QLD are less than the subsidies paid by the QLD government to the coal industry.”

“Nationally subsidies to the coal industry total 7-9 billion dollars a year.”

The madness is that last year Australia went to the G20 and Wayne Swann committed to the elimination of all inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. This year they went back to the Toronto G20 to present how they would make this happen. Australia solved the problem beautifully by defining the problem out of existence by saying Australia has no inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

This year $1.7 billion was paid to industry in rebates for diesel use. “I guess this not inefficient in the eyes of the government” Tager said.

“Where can you begin unravelling a beast that is so deeply embedded in the political system, so clearly powerful enough to influence the nature of the discourse and debate that’s being had.”

So last year Greenpeace made the decision that, as it wasn’t getting any traction on the coal export industry, to have a more focused campaign: No new coal fired power plants.

“There a dozen new coal fire power plants on the books in Australia.
• Two have just approved in WA
• a brown coal power plant has just been approved in Victoria
• two more are in the pipe-line in NSW
• if all of them are built we will see another 7 % increase in our climate emissions.

“Madness. This is a no brainer. It’s not as if there aren’t alternatives in terms of energy sources, even gas, it isn’t as if we cant find substantial reductions in terms of energy efficiency and yet we are so locked into this coal mentality that we continue to say we can build all these new coal fires power stations at a ridiculous rate and still meet our emission reductions targets. How can you make sense of madness.?”

As the export coal industry has “such a close bond and nexus with government Greenpeace decided not to focus on the political level but to investigate the financial sector. Banks were chosen over superannuation funds as they are more sensitive to customer opinions and branding. Although banks don’t seem to mind being hated they are determined to promote themselves as having a green side.

Greenpeace commissioned a Dutch company to research the connections between banks and coal investment. It produced a report that looks at how your bank supports coal mining, Coal Fired Power Stations, coal export port infrastructure and renewables. The short version of their report is attached to this newsletter. The long version can be found at: http://www.greenpeace.org.au/climate/GI-profundo.php

Greenpeace found that there is not all that much difference between the four big banks:

Altogether Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and NAB invested 5 billion dollars last year in coal fired power plants; coal mining and coal port development, the renewable sector got just $780 million.

However ANZ is the worst. There is hope in that none of the credit unions invest in coal.

Banks don’t try very hard to retain their customers because people don’t easily change banks because its a bit complicated to change all your cards and loans. Banks do work hard on finding new customers. For this reason banks are very present at all Australian universities. The disinvestment campaign can be expected to be active on campuses. Greenpeace is optimistic that the banks will move quickly away from investing in coal to renewables in response to pressure from customers.

Jeremy Tager encouraged us to take the steps in the Pillars of Pollution Report [attached] and pressure our banks to invest the renewable sector instead of invest in coal.

To find out the ways you can contact your bank and be part of this campaign. Go to:

http://www.greenpeace.org.au/climate/TakeAction.html

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