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Cutting coal exports won't help environment: Libs, Labor

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It won’t help the environment if Australia reduces coal exports, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton believes – a view backed by opposition leader Anthony Albanese.

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The Morrison government is under pressure over its climate change policy in the aftermath of unprecedented bushfires ravaging the nation, but the coalition has no plans to reduce the nation’s economic reliance on coal.

“(Australia) stopping exports of coal to India or to China will mean that they will source it from other countries,” Dutton told Nine’s Today show on Friday.

“It means emissions will go up, so there’s no benefit to the environment and we would lose $70 billion from our economy.”

Labor leader Albanese agrees.

“If you stopped exporting coal immediately, then that would not reduce global emissions because there’s enough displacement from other coal exporting countries to take up that position,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“And that coal will produce higher emissions rather than less emissions.”

The Morrison government intends to use carryover credits to meet the Paris target, of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

Its use has been condemned on the international stage, with one of the creators of the Paris agreement saying it goes against the point of the deal.

It’s not yet known what impact emissions from the bushfires will have on Australia’s levels, because the spike in this year’s levels might be evened out on the assumption it will be re-absorbed.

The Department of Environment and Energy says this reflects practices used by the European Union, Canada and the US.

“The methodology smooths the impact of emissions variability due to natural disturbances by reflecting the long-term carbon storage in forests, which generally, over time and in the absence of new disturbances, re-absorb carbon to balance that carbon emitted during the fire,” a department spokeswoman told AAP.

However, AAP understand this relies on the regrowth of forest.

The centrepiece of the government’s plan to reduce emissions is by paying companies for reduction projects through the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Given the fires are ongoing, the full impact on projects is unknown.

“Thus far, the majority of fire activity has occurred in areas without ERF projects,” the spokeswoman said.

The comments came as British naturalist David Attenborough says the “moment of crisis” has come in the fight against climate change, warning that governments’ targets for decades in the future are not enough to save the planet.

Noting the destruction being caused by Australia’s wave of bushfires, Attenborough criticised Canberra’s approach to climate change, saying the government’s support for coal mines showed the world it did not care about the environment.

He also called on China in particular to reduce its carbon emissions, saying he thought other countries would follow if China set a lead.

“The moment of crisis has come – we can no longer prevaricate,” said the 93-year-old, who raised public awareness around the world of the danger of plastic pollution in oceans with his television series Blue Planet II.

“We have been putting things off year after year, raising targets and saying ‘Oh well if we do it within the next 20 years…’,” he told the BBC in an interview.

“This is an urgent problem that has to be solved. And what is more is that we know how to do it – that’s the paradoxical thing – that we are refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken.”

Attenborough’s interview was part of the BBC’s drive to increase coverage of climate change ahead of a UN conference on climate change, COP 26, in Glasgow in November 2020.

-with AAP

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