Attempts to shut down Australia’s coal industry for the sake of climate change are premature—according to mining industry representatives—who say Asian nations will simply source coal from other countries, many of which have less stringent environmental regulations.
The warning comes as the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed global electricity demand—namely from India and China—could rise, and fossil fuels would still be needed to prop up power demands.
Paul Flynn, CEO of Whitehaven Coal, told the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth that Asia was a hotbed of demand for Australian coal and that mining for the resource would continue for decades.
“If Australia were to exit the Asian market for coal, whether as a result of financing issues or not, the strong underlying demand from our customers would be quickly filled by lower-quality Indonesian or Russian coal, and there would be zero gain for Australia’s significant sacrifice,” he told the Committee.
“Therefore, close cooperation between Australia’s financial institutions and our export industries will not only benefit Australia’s economy but will help government, business, and industry to manage the global transition to a lower-emissions world,” he added.
Flynn’s comments were echoed by Tania Constable, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, who noted that despite coal consumption dropping in the United States and across Europe, Asia and ASEAN would continue to drive demand.
“The demand is high and the export volumes and value that we have seen in 2020, and what we understand to be a need in energy and electricity demand in the next few decades, means coal will be needed,” she told the Committee, noting that countries like Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa would simply step in and take Australia’s place on the world markets.
Recent figures released by the IEA’s Electricity Market Report (pdf) in July confirm these assertions, revealing that electricity demand worldwide would rise five percent in 2021, and four percent in 2022.
Most of the demand will come from Asia, with China accounting for over half of global growth and India nine percent.
The IEA conceded that fossil fuels would be needed to supply that demand, despite growth in the renewable sector.
The Epoch Times reached out to the Climate Council but a response could not provided in time for publication.
Meanwhile, the Joint Committee is investigating financial regulation around investment in Australia’s export industries, which the global climate change movement has heavily influenced.
The inquiry has also received submissions from several mining companies, who say the industry is being slowly constricted by financial institutions—namely banks, insurers, and superannuation firms—who are withdrawing vital insurance and loan services.
The Committee noted that Australia’s financial institutions were responding to climate change activism via the boardrooms of major corporations, which has resulted in major investment funds steering clear of companies involved in the coal industry—which is deemed a major emissions generator.
On the ground, smaller mining firms and allied industries—which employ thousands of Australian workers—have seen their operations suffer.
For example, the Resource Industry Network (RIN), an umbrella body based in the coal-rich central Queensland region, says professional indemnity insurance has been harder to find. In turn, those willing to support the industry have raised prices.
“It’s 18 times higher now than it was six years ago, and we now spend more on this intangible risk-management tool than we spend on IT or diesel for our vehicles to drive in and out,” David Hartigan, general manager of RIN’s Field Engineers told the Committee.
“To give you a sense of perspective: our insurance is now our biggest single cost other than wages.”