Australia energy minister Josh Frydenberg has been “caught out” lobbying the US in favour of the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, earning it the first “fossil of the day” award at the Marrakech climate talks.
Frydenberg was heard talking to US energy secretary Ernest Moniz at the COP22 conference in Morocco, complaining about the support of US charities for communities and environmental activists opposing the construction of what would be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world.
The intervention came less than a week after Australia ratified the Paris climate treaty, which aims to cap global warming at “well below 2°C” and as low as 1.5°C, and hours after the International Energy Agency said this would require completely decarbonising the world’s electrify sector by 2040.
“Australia ratified the Paris Agreement last Friday, so lobbying for coal expansion at the United Nations climate negotiations is an ugly, ugly thing to be doing. Shape up, Australia,” said the Climate Action Network, a collection of environmental groups, in awarding the Fossil of the Day award.
Moniz is in the last few weeks of his tenure as energy secretary, given the election of Donald Trump as the new US president, with his administration to begin its tenure on January 20.
Trump has previously threaten to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty and scrap all of President Barack Obama’s clean energy initiatives. He has appointed a climate denier, Myron Ebell, to oversee the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.
A spokesman for Frydenberg told confirmed to The Guardian that the minister had raised the issue with Moniz.
“Frydenberg noted the issue raised concerns in Australia and reiterated that Australia had a very effective environmental approvals process and that a large amount of conditions we’re attached to the Adani mine approval,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ACT climate change and sustainability minister, the Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, who is also visiting Marrakech talking about his territory’s 100 per cent renewable energy target for 2020, has called on the Federal Government to heed the global calls for a moratorium on coal.
“While I have been proud to speak about the ACT’s ambitious leadership on renewable energy, one thing is undeniably clear – the lack of action by the Federal Government is letting down Australians, and the world,” he said in a statement.
“Australia’s obsession with coal is economically and environmentally irresponsible. We must end our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and stop investment in new coal mines.
“Like we have done in the ACT, it’s time for Australia to embrace the jobs and opportunities that the renewable energy economy offers Australia, and to plan a transition away from coal to renewables.
“We must be looking to the next wave of technologies to reduce our reliance on coal and gas including renewable energy generation, battery storage, electric vehicles and affordable public transport systems powered by renewable energy.