Coal is a major contributor to global greenhouse emissions. In Australia alone it contributes 35% of our greenhouse gas emissions (2003 Australian Greenhouse Office figures) and it is our fastest growing source of GHGs.  Alarmingly, coal mining operations and coal-fired power plants are set to rise. 

Four foreign-owned multinationals produce 72% of Australia's coal: BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Rio Tinto and Anglo-American - so most of the profits do not end up in Australia. And despite the expansion of operations and increases in prices and exports, employment figures have steadily fallen. According to New South Wales Government figures, jobs in Hunter mines have fallen from 10,000 in 1990 to about 6800 in 2003, while production has doubled.

Per unit of energy, we could create more jobs in renewable energy than we have in coal ( NSW and QLD produce nearly 97% of Australia's output of black coal.

This issue is both a local and global one for us. Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle intends to take a responsible stance, to represent our neighbourhood and our families and speak up for the future.

The Problem with Coal…..

Outdated technology
Coal is a dirty fuel which has been used as a source of energy for hundreds of years. The process which extracts coal from the earth and converts it into power may have modernised, but it's still largely 19th century technology.

Horrendous environmental impacts of mining
The areas around coal mines and coal-fired power stations suffer in many ways: the atmosphere (air quality) is degraded, local waterways are sullied, the environment is desecrated and natural habitats are lost.

Feb 2011: Taxpayers fund two-thirds of coal's real cost; US study:

Coal is a big Climate Change culprit
In Australia alone, coal accounts for a whopping 35% of our greenhouse gas emissions. And that does not include the coal we dig up and export to Asian nations.

The burning of coal, like other fossil fuels, creates carbon dioxide which blankets the earth creating a 'greenhouse' effect and raising temperatures. The world's average annual temperature has risen around half a degree since the Industrial Revolution, and the rate of that increase is speeding up. The 10 hottest years on record have been in the last 14 years, and scientists are now predicting that the average global temperature will increase 3°C by 2050. And that's conservative since it's predicated on current levels of CO2 emissions.

At that rate, in just 4 decades:

• The Great Barrier Reef will have died
• Half of all Australian species of rainforest mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects will be extinct
• Caribou, reindeer, polar bears, seals, walruses, whales and plankton (and many other creatures) will have died out
• 4 million people living in the Arctic Circle will lose their land and livelihood
• Sea levels will rise as much as 6-7 metres

Mining and export of coal is on the up
Yet, coal mining operations and coal-fired power plants are still on the rise.
In NSW we are mining and exporting more coal than ever before and the approvals processes for new coal mines does not include any recognition of the related greenhouse gas emissions and global warming impacts. In other words, the Government is letting is more and more CO
2 out of the ground and into the atmosphere, regardless of global warming.

At the end of 2004 there were 99 mines producing black coal in Australia. 51 of these were in NSW alone. By mid 2005, four new major black coal projects were completed and 21 coal projects were at an advanced stage of development. Another 25 are in planning stages. There's enough coal coming out of the ground in Australia alone to keep pushing up temperatures for decades and generations to come.

A new coal loader is planned for Newcastle Harbour and, if it goes ahead, it will be able to increase the ship-loading capacity by 70%.

Some coal hard facts…
• The greatest single source of CO2 emissions is coal-fired power stations
• About 85% of Australia's electricity is produced from coal combustion
• In NSW 98% of electricity is produced from coal
• The greenhouse pollution produced by Australia's 24 coal-fired power stations equals the annual emissions of 40 million cars
• In the Hunter Valley, NSW, more than 30 mines cover 220 kilometres of the valley floor
• Newcastle, NSW, exports more coal than any other harbour in the world
• NSW exports 100 million tonnes (Mt) of coal each year and plans have been approved to double exports
• Every tonne of coal burnt emits 3.7 tonnes of CO
• The average Australian household emits 14 tonnes of CO
2 per year

Sources: Total Environment Centre;
The Weather Makers, Tim Flannery; The Greens' Coal Communities Report; Greenpeace ; Climate Action Network Australia;


... and some Good News

This paper on "A Just Transition to Sustainability in a Climate Change Hot-spot: The Hunter Valley" earned its author a PhD: