Thursday, 12 November 2009

Miners digging their own graves to preserve profits

Courier Mail
Wednesday 11/11/2009 Page: 33

The mining industry's claim that carbon pollution cuts will be too costly is as shortsighted as it is shallow, writes John Connor

QUEENSLANDERS, particularly in the regions, have been pounded with ads from the mining industry talking about job losses and closures should coal mines and other industries shoulder their share of efforts to reduce Australia's carbon pollution. But you don't need to scratch much below the surface to show the slipperiness and shortsightedness of such claims. The reality is that tens of billions of dollars are pouring into the mining industry and more than a dozen new mines are slated for opening.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics has listed 74 mining, energy and minerals processing projects worth $80 billion that are in advanced development. And the coal-mining union's analysis of the industry's job numbers revealed that even with the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme, Queensland mining jobs would grow 120% by 2030. What industry lobbyists are also not telling you is the CPRS and other clean-energy policies, if effectively implemented, could grow a million more clean-energy, clean-technology jobs across Australia by 2030.

Climate Institute Australia research shows Queensland could triple the jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020. These industry lobbyists and some Queensland politicians are also remarkably silent when it comes to the job losses and economic impacts that will follow as climate change hits Queensland's natural and economic assets such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics and coastal and regional communities.

What's more, they were silent when research was released showing Australia was well behind all other developed countries, and indeed some developing countries, in its carbon competitiveness - the ability to prosper in a world already turning to clean energy and low-carbon economic growth. Respected global economist Lord Nicholas Stern writes in his preface to this research: "A global economic recovery will present an ideal opportunity for countries to shift towards low-carbon growth. Countries which don't seize this opportunity will undermine their future competitiveness and prosperity."

The global low-carbon and environmental goods sector is now valued at $6.1 trillion. In 2008 alone, $167 billion was invested in new clean-energy sources, representing a four-fold increase since 2004 and, for the first time, outstripping investments in the fossil fuel technologies. Worldwide, the renewable energy sector already employs about 2.3 million people - more than the number employed directly by the oil and gas industry.

The pace of these changes needs to accelerate to avoid the worst impacts of climate change but only dinosaurs in business and politics can't or don't want to see these changes. This is why the Climate Institute Australia has joined with union, welfare and environment groups in a national clean-energy jobs campaign - the Southern Cross Climate Coalition - calling for urgent climate action. These groups know climate action is urgent, that there needs to be a just and fair transition and that Australia will be left behind if we don't take decisive steps. It's time to strengthen and pass the CPRS and other clean energy and industry policies.

John Connor is CEO of the Climate Institute Australia.