Has Australia Forgotten Its Commitment to Fighting Climate Change?


It seems that the results of the Federal elections in Australia and the ensuing talk of repealing the carbon pricing scheme have given rise to genuine eco warfare Down Under. On the one hand, Australians are looking at new developments in the field of technology for renewable energy sources, such as concentrated solar power; they are recycling their electronics and opting for CO2 emission-free alternatives such as indoor clothes lines; they are increasingly choosing green transport solutions. On the other hand, though, the Alpha Coal Mine project threatens to discredit these dedicated efforts to building a better, greener Australia for the future. A recently released report by Greenpeace, titled The Galilee Report draws a serious alarm signal regarding the mega-mining project that will soon be initiated in the Galilee Basin of Central Queensland. Join us as we review the key findings of this report.

What’s going to happen in the Galilee Basin?

Nothing is certain for the time being, but a private initiative seeks to be approved by the Government. This initiative centers on several mega-mines, which threaten to severely affect the environmental balance in the area, but also risk disturbing the delicate ecological balance of the entire world. The mines would produce coal to be delivered in India and China. Unfortunately, the route for shipping the yield would run through the Great Barrier Reef, which stands to be seriously damaged in the process. The project includes plans for nine new mines, of which five are bigger than any other ones in Australia. The combined production capacity of these mines could reach 330 tons of coal, but they would also produce some 705 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. In other words, going through with the project both stands to double Australia’s coal production, but it will also substantially amp up its CO2 emission level.

Perhaps the most serious ecological threat caused by the Alpha Coal Mine project is the one posed to the Great Barrier Reef area. The site is part of the World Heritage list of protected objectives; by being located so closely to a coal exploitation facility, it stands exposure to the accelerated effects of climate change. To boot, burning fossil fuels can change the acidity levels of the ocean, effectively causing the coral reef to die out. The new project has nine coal terminals located within the area of the coral reef. In addition, two of the ports, which are set to become the largest ones in the world, would facilitate the passing of more than 6,000 coal carrying vessels through the reef. This, of course, increases the risk of spills and accidents in a highly sensitive area.

What should Australia’s government do?

According to Greenpeace, Australia’s lawmakers have the obligation to remember their own commitment to keeping pollution down. At the moment, official estimates from the government say that the CO2 emission levels in Australia are going to increase by 24 per cent until 2020. This ranks the country among the 20 biggest polluters in the world – which is why its government has previously pledged to pull its own weight in the effort to combat the effects of climate change. As part of this effort, Australian authorities have vouched to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 per cent below the levels recorded in the year 2000 until 2020 and by 80 per cent until 2050.

However, as the ecological organization notes in its report cited above, the Alpha Project stands in stark contradiction to these promises. As such, Greenpeace has urged the government to drop the mining project altogether, cease the construction of ports along the continent and dedicate itself to protecting the Great Barrier Reef area.

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