The UN has drawn criticism for what is seen as allowing China to continue using coal until 2040 while calling on other big economies to phase it out by 2030.
The criticism follows a Monday speech by UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Climate Action, Selwin Hart, who called on Australia to join other OECD economies in committing to phase-out coal use by 2030 as a means to achieving net-zero status by 2050 and contributing to the 1.5-degree Paris Agreement target.
“National governments responsible for 73% of global emissions have now committed to net-zero by mid-century, and we urge Australia to join them as a matter of urgency,” Hart said, adding “Collectively these commitments must cut carbon pollution by 45% this decade if we are to keep our 1.5C goal within reach. We have seen strong new commitments from many key economies, including the US, Japan and the European Union, who are increasingly looking to their trading partners to follow suit.”
Coal is a major export commodity for Australia and this year has been a bumper one for the most polluting fossil fuel as a shortage of supply and a boom in demand pushed coal prices to the highest in years. And unlike Australia, China is not being called upon to phase out coal by 2030.
“The U.N. has exposed their real agenda this week,” Australian Senator Matt Canavan told The Epoch Times this week following Hart’s speech. “This isn’t about changing the climate, it is about changing our society.”
It does not seem that the Australian government has taken Hart’s call for action to heart.
"Australia has an important role to play in meeting [coal] demand. Coal will continue to generate billions of dollars in royalties and taxes for state and federal governments, and directly employ over 50,000 Australians," the country’s Minister for Resources and Water, KeithPitt, said in a statement following Hart’s speech, The official added that Australia was going to keep mining and using coal beyond 2030.
Australia has a good reason to stick with coal: coal mining and power generation employ some 50,000 Australians and coal exports account for about 16 percent of the country’s total exports over the last five years.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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China uses coal to satisfy its electricity generation which renewable energy on its own could never ever satisfy. And yet, China is the world’s largest investor in renewables. On the other hand, Australia is a major exporter of coal and until recently was the biggest supplier to China with its coal exports employing some 50,000 Australians and accounting for about 16% of the country’s total exports over the last five years.
Whilst China uses coal out of expediency, Australia uses it as a source of revenue (and rightly so). Therefore, the UN call on Australia to phase out coal by 2030 and China by 2040 can be considered even-handed in my opinion given the differences in the sizes of their economies and their uses of coal.
In the final analysis, neither China nor Australia will oblige because they can’t. Moreover, both countries will always give precedence to their economies over climate change. Furthermore, the notion of net-zero emissions is a myth. It isn’t going to happen by 2050 or even 2100 or ever.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business