A RECENTLY formed coal lobby group says the NSW government must “reject the approach” taken in the Rocky Hill court decision, saying the verdict puts a range of projects, industries and jobs at risk.
The Coal Council of Australia, led by former Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) executive Greg Evans, questioned the Land and Environment Court’s concerns with global greenhouse emissions, saying they were the responsibility of the countries burning the coal.
“The court indicates it can consider as part of its decision the greenhouse emissions from coal as it is used in the making of steel in another country,” Mr Evans said on Tuesday.
“If this rationale became accepted, all our resource exports would have to account for the emissions applying to their downstream use, including gas, iron ore and thermal coal.”
While environmentalists have hailed the Rocky Hill verdict for these very implications, Mr Evan said such an approach would be economically devastating.
“Under the Paris agreement it’s up to individual countries to deal with emissions at their source.
“It’s not about the unilateral banning of particular industries or commodities in supplier countries.
“Of course, the United States, a significant coal exporter, is not even part of the Paris agreement. The beneficiaries of this decision will be producers with spare production capacity including those in the US, Canada, Russia and Mongolia.
“Further, the decision potentially presents a set of new obstacles that producers in NSW could face when it comes to expansion and new mine approvals.”
With Rocky Hill’s proponent Gloucester Resources and the Minerals Council of NSW considering potential challenges to the verdict, Mr Evans said government policy would also play a role.
“The NSW government must decisively reject the approach of the court,” Mr Evans said.
“It needs to send a signal to investors, regional residents, taxpayers and consumers of government services that development in the state and the resulting economic benefits, including higher royalties, won't be at risk.”
Mr Evans said that despite the court’s climate concerns, no Australian verdict would influence global coal use.
“Asian countries need coal to raise their living standards, to provide energy, steel and cement,” Mr Evans said.
“They won't be wavering from this course based on this decision or any other.”
Mr Evans left the Minerals Council of Australia in November last year.
In late 2017, BHP had threatened to withdraw its membership of the council unless the organisation backed away from its high-profile lobbying for the coal industry.
Mr Evans said he had formed the new group because “Australia’s largest export commodity requires a dedicated and a stand-alone organisation to represent it”.
“It is now commencing operations and we are in discussions with potential contributors which we are very encouraged by.”
But the national peak body has also weighed into the Rocky Hill debate, with a number of industry leaders in Canberra at the moment for Minerals Week 2019.
Late on Tuesday, Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said the organisation was also considering the impact of the ruling.
“There is concern about the statement and the lack of understanding on economic issues related to the use of coal and coal exports,” Ms Constable told the Newcastle Herald.
“Many delegates at Minerals Week are gravely concerned that this decision will choke future mining investment in Australia and deprive regional communities of high-paying, highly-skilled jobs for years into the future.”
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