There is nowhere else on the planet right now where the dichotomy between two potential futures – one where we address the climate change crisis, one where we ignore this momentous threat and continue with business as usual – is playing out in such a dramatic and explosive way as Australia. In the US, Donald Trump is decimating decades of hard-fought environmental and climate standards – it's all 18th century all the time. But the ageing fossil fuel assets and recent "market failure" of the Australian electricity grid is pushing political leaders to all-out brawling, pitting conservative inaction against the demand for solution-focused action. A recent wave of blackouts and near misses and the proposal of the biggest coalmine in the world – the Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland – has created tinder-dry conditions that only needed one spark to go up in flames. The spark finally came recently, via Twitter, from renewable energy entrepreneur Elon Musk who offered to sell the batteries that would remove the last argument against renewable power.
When it comes to the Adani Carmichael coalmine, the spotlight this week has been trained on Queensland as the state government battled an internal split on whether to give the project a royalties holiday. There have also been murmurings in Canberra, where Labor MPs are starting to express public opposition to a project many have been privately wringing their hands about. But to fathom the next phase in the political battle against the project, we need to train our eyes a bit further south. Over this past week in Victoria, the Greens have launched a new fundraising drive to produce placards which will begin appearing shortly around the electorates of Melbourne, Batman, Wills and Melbourne Ports. The placards have a simple message, easily consumed from a passing car or tram.
The former Greens leader Bob Brown will launch a new alliance of 13 environmental groups opposed to Adani's Carmichael coalmine on Wednesday in Canberra. The Stop Adani Alliance will lobby against the coalmine in northern Queensland, citing new polling that shows three-quarters of Australians oppose subsidies for the mine when told the government plans to loan its owners $1bn. The alliance's declaration argues the mine will "fuel catastrophic climate change" because burning 2.3bn tonnes of coal from the mine over 60 years of operation would create 4.6bn tonnes of carbon dioxide. It states the project would "trash Indigenous rights", citing the fact Adani does not have the consent of the Wangan and Jagalingou people. The alliance's members include the Bob Brown Foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation, 350.org,
Indian billionaire Gautam Adani has given the "green light" to the Carmichael mine and rail project, but it will still hinge on its Australian arm, Adani Mining, gaining bank backing for the contentious venture. Adani's top executive in Australia, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, took a dig at "activists who sit in creature comfort and criticise us" while trumpeting the decision to invest in Australia's largest proposed coalmine. The company is yet to secure its bid for a $900m infrastructure loan from the federal government for a railway that would help other miners open up Queensland's Galilee Basin. Adani said the "final investment decision" by Adani Mining's Indian parent marked "the official start of one of the largest single infrastructure – and job creating – developments in Australia's recent history". Janakaraj, the chief executive of Adani Mining said the company was delivering on its promise to "address power poverty for hundreds of millions in India and unacceptably high unemployment in regional Queensland".
New coalmines will leave more people in poverty, Oxfam has said in a new report, calling on Australia to commit to no new coalmines and to end public subsidies for coalmining. The report comes as the Queensland and federal governments continue to push for the controversial Adani coalmine in the Galilee basin, signalling potential infrastructure support and "royalty holidays". The government's support for the mine, which would be the biggest in Australia, has been met with a fierce campaign of resistance from environmental, legal, social justice and human rights groups. The Oxfam report, More Coal Equals More Poverty, says the climate change impacts of coal-fired power will disproportionately affect the world's poor and – with most of the energy-poor households in developing countries beyond the reach of electricity grids – new coal-fired power plants won't bring them energy. "Renewables are the clear answer to bringing electricity to those who currently live without it," the report says.