47 scientists and experts have signed an open letter urging the NSW Government not to overrule NSW laws that require climate change impacts to be considered in the assessment of new coal mines.
The NSW Government is reportedly set to legislate restrictions on its own Independent Planning Commission preventing it from considering downstream greenhouse gas pollution (Scope 3 emissions) in major development decisions. Scope 3 emissions from burning coal are by far the largest source of greenhouse gases from coal mined in NSW.
The Government has also launched a review that will consider axing the Independent Planning Commission, increasing the power of politicians to approve coal mines and other controversial developments.
Prominent signatories of the open letter include: Nobel Prize winner Professor Peter Doherty AC , leading climate scientists including Professor Will Steffen, head of the climate team at ANU, Professor Katrin Meissner, Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW, Professor Andy Pitman, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes at UNSW. It also includes many of Australia’s leading scientists from other key disciplines including, health, economics, energy, and finance, including Professor Hilary Bambrick, Professor John Quiggin, and Dr Liz Hanna.
- Emissions from burning coal (Scope 3 emissions) are by far the largest source of greenhouse gas from coal mined in NSW.
- An important legal decision in the NSW Land and Environment Court found that the full impact of coal mines on climate change, including emissions from burning the coal must be considered in assessing new coal mines. It also rejected many long standing arguments by the coal industry for avoiding considering these emissions.
- The coal lobby has run a relentless campaign against this legal precedent, including unprecedented and misleading attacks on the state’s Independent Planning Commission.
- It has been reported that the NSW Government will cave in to pressure from the coal lobby and change the law to prevent emissions from the burning of coal being considered in the assessment of new coal mines.
“Allowing new coal mines in NSW is incompatible with the NSW Government’s climate policy of net zero emissions by 2050,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Australia Institute.
“‘The NSW Government should strengthen planning rules to limit new coal mines whilst supporting regional communities to diversify their economies and seize new job opportunities in renewable energy and other industries.
“The impacts of climate change are made worse by emissions from coal mined in NSW. These mines add around 500 million tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere every year, almost as much as Australia’s entire domestic emissions,” Mr Merzian said.
“It is absolutely clear from any assessment of what is required to meet the Paris climate targets — to which Australia is a signatory — that no new fossil fuel developments can be allowed. This means no new coal mines in Australia, or elsewhere,” said Professor Will Steffen, head of the climate team at ANU.
“In fact, our challenge is to phase out existing fossil fuel facilities over the next couple of decades, with just transition plans in place to support workers and communities affected,” Mr Steffen said.
“Human-induced climate change is the greatest threat to our national security and future prosperity. It intensifies drought, floods and bushfires and is becoming the key driver of our climate and weather. Scope 3 emissions are the greatest contributing factor. It is absolute hypocrisy to exclude them from government and planning decision-making with much hand-wringing, prayers and crocodile tears over the drought, floods and bushfires they are causing,” said Ian Dunlop, former Chairman of the Australian Coal Association, Former senior executive of Royal Dutch Shell.
“Taking scope 3 emissions into account when considering fossil fuel investments and approvals is critical in the drive to decarbonise energy here in Australia and within the countries to which we export,” said Greg Bourne, Councilllor at the Climate Council and former regional president BP Australasia.
“Progressively companies and countries are tightening up on supply chain that have serious externalities. Just as Australia cannot export toxic waste overseas and can no longer dump plastic waste into external markets, Australia is now coming under increasing pressure to clean up its fossil fuel act.”
“Investments in activities that create emissions here and overseas cannot be given a free ride in the hope that NSW and Australia will pick up the tab for those emissions by pressurising other sectors of the economy or taxpayers in general to underwrite private profits,” Mr Bourne said.
The open letter co-ordinated and published by the Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program and complete list of signatories can be found below, or viewed as a PDF here.
NSW Government must defend law and climate from coal industry attacks
An open letter to the Government of New South Wales
Allowing new coal mines in NSW is incompatible with the NSW Government’s commendable climate policy aimed at achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. It is also incompatible with reaching targets required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change agreed to under the Paris Agreement.
We strongly urge the NSW Government not to cave in to pressure from coal lobbyists to overrule NSW laws that require the full climate impact to be considered in the assessment of new coal mines. These include the important legal precedent of the Land and Environment Court in the Rocky Hill case, and State Environmental Planning Policy requirements to consider emissions from burning coal mined in NSW (Scope 3 emissions), which are the main source of emissions from coal mined in NSW.
We also strongly urge the Government to defend its own Independent Planning Commission against unwarranted and misleading attacks.
NSW is already experiencing serious impacts of climate change including increasing extreme heat and longer, hotter fire seasons. The hotter conditions and more extreme heatwaves driven by climate change are worsening the impacts of drought. These impacts of climate change are being made worse by emissions from coal mined in NSW. These mines add around 500 million tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere every year, almost as much as Australia’s entire domestic emissions.
Professor Peter Doherty AC
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1996; Australian of the Year 1997; Laureate Professor,
Professor Tim Flannery
Councillor, Climate Council; Australian of the Year 2007; Sustainability, Melb;
Professor Lesley Hughes
Distingushed Professor of Biology Macquarie University; Climate Council Councillor
Professor Hilary Bambrick
Head of School, Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology
Professor Tilman Ruff AO
Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne
Dr Peter Tait
Convener Ecology and Environment Group, Public Health Association of Australia
Associate Professor Shauna Murray
Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology, Sydney
Professor Rob Moodie AM
Deputy Head and Professor of Public Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
Professor Mark Wahlqvist AO
Emeritus Professor, former Professor and Head of Medicine at Prince Henry’s Hospital and Monash Medical Centre
Professor John Quiggin
VC Senior Research Fellow, School of Economics, University of Queensland
Adjunct Professor Shilu Tong
Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health and Social Work
Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Queensland University of Technology
Professor Rick Cavicchioli
School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences
Professor Will Steffen
Emeritus Professor, Australian National University and Councillor, Climate Council of Australia.
Energy consultant, former AEMO Gas Principal, International Gas Industry Engineer Exxon, Esso BHP
Associate Professor Peter Sainsbury
Sydney Medical School, University of Notre Dame
Former senior executive Royal Dutch Shell; former
Chairman of the Australian Coal Association; former
CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors;
chairman the original Australian Government Greenhouse
Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading
Professor John Church
Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales
Professor Steven Sherwood
ARC Laureate Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, UNSW Climate Change Research Centre
Professor Michael Ashley
Professor of Astrophysics, University of New South Wales
Adjunct Professor Howard Bamsey AM
Honorary Professor,School of Regulation and Global Governance – RegNet, Australian National University
Professor Ian Lowe AO FTSE
Emeritus Professor, Science, Technology and Society, Griffith University
Dr Hugh Saddler
Honorary Associate Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University
Dr Brett Murphy
Senior Research Fellow, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University
Founder and Executive Director, Climate and Health Alliance, Board Member, Global Climate and Health Alliance
Professor Peter Dart
Honorary Associate Professor, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences University of Queensland
Dr David Holmes
Director, Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University
Dr Martin Rice
Head of Research, The Climate Council of Australia, Honorary Associate, Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University
Professor John Wiseman
Prof Research Fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, Energy Transition Research Hub and Climate and Energy College, The University of Melbourne
Dr David Shearman AM
Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide
Professor Andy Pitman
Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, University of New South Wales
Executive Director, The Australia Institute
Climate & Energy Program Director, The Australia Institute
Dr Liz Hanna
Chair, Environmental Health Working Group, World Federation of Public Health Associations
Dr Bill Hare
CEO and Managing Director/ Senior Scientist, Climate Analytics
Associate Professor Gavin Mudd
Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering, RMIT University
Professor Philip Jennings
Emeritus Professor of Physics and Energy Studies, Murdoch University
Professor Katrin Meissner
Director, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales
Professor Hans Lambers
Emeritus Professor at The University of West Australia; Adjunct Professor at Curtin University, Distinguished Professor at China Agricultural University, Beijing, China
Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis,
Investment Analyst, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
Professor Matthew England
Scientia Professor, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales
Professor Jeremy Moss
Professor of Political Philosophy, Director, Practical Justice Initiative, University of New South Wales
Professor Robert Brooks
Scientia Professor, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales..
Greg Mullins AO
Former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW
Professor Karen Hussey
Director, Centre for Policy Futures, University of Queensland
Councillor, the Climate Council, Former Regional President BP Australasia
Dr John Van Der Kallen
Rheumatologist, Conjoint Lecturer, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle