Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt has tabled legislation in the Federal Parliament that would place a cap on the amount of thermal coal that Australia exports to other countries, and would gradually outlaw the use of coal altogether by 2030.
The Coal Prohibition (Quit Coal) Bill 2019 would prevent the establishment of new coal mines or new coal-fired power stations, gradually phase out the export, importation and the burning of coal by 2030, and establish criminal offences for the use of coal after 2030.
The Bill would also place a cap on the export of thermal coal at current levels, approximately 200 million tonnes per year, with this cap gradually reduced to zero by 2030. The Bill would also prevent the expansion of existing coal mines or power stations.
Breaches of the controls proposed by the bill could attract a term of imprisonment of up to seven years.
“The Greens’ bill will steadily phase-out the export of thermal coal until it ends in 2030 and will prohibit the construction or expansion of any new coal mines or power stations,” Bandt said.
The Greens cited recent research published by the International Monetary Fund that suggested a carbon price of US$75 (A$110) would be needed across industrialised countries to ensure emissions were reduced to a level consistent with limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees.
But Bandt added that the seriousness of the climate emergency meant that coal needed to be directly regulated in the same way other toxic substances are controlled.
“The climate emergency is so severe that a carbon price alone will no longer fix the problem,” Bandt said. “When it comes to phasing out coal by 2030 as the science requires, even the IMF has acknowledged that a carbon price is necessary but not sufficient.
“The Greens will continue to argue for the revival of the Greens/Labor carbon price, the only policy to successfully reduce pollution, but the Liberals have lifted pollution so much that we need to do more.”
“Coal is the next asbestos. Like asbestos and tobacco, we now know things about coal we didn’t know before. We now know that coal kills people when used as directed, so we need to treat it like asbestos and regulate its phase-out.”
Progressive think tank The Australia Institute echoed the message that the International Monetary Fund research meant that Governments were obliged to act quickly on climate change.
“The IMF analysis notes that climate change will cause ‘major damage to the global economy’ and ‘risks of catastrophic and irreversible outcomes’ however it excludes these huge costs from the study,” the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director Richie Merzian said.
“If there is one clear message for the Australian Government, it is get your act together. Australia’s emissions are increasing, not falling, because there is no credible climate and energy policy.”
The Greens legislation comes as the Liberal government seeks to capitalise on ongoing tension and uncertainty within the Labor party over its own positions on climate and energy.
Following the election loss in May, Labor has faced internal pressure to make itself a small target on climate policy, with Labor frontbencher, and Hunter Valley MP, Joel Fitzgibbon pressuring his party to adopt the Liberal party’s 2030 emission reduction targets.
The division within the Labor party over energy policy featured prominently in the government’s talking points, that were inadvertently sent to the entire Canberra press gallery, on the first day of this week’s parliamentary sitting.
The Australian Greens are also expected to move a parliamentary motion making a declaration of a climate change emergency during the sitting period.
A formal e-petition calling on the parliament to make such a declaration has attracted more than 334,000 signatures, smashing the record for the amount of support received by an official electronic petition.
The Coal Prohibition (Quit Coal) Bill is unlikely to pass the government-controlled House of Representatives, where the Liberal-National coalition commands a majority.