Our coal fired power stations: Shut them down!


Submission to the Committee Secretary,
Re: Retirement of coal fired power stations

It’s time to get serious about the climate emergency and start shutting down coal fired power stations. There is no more time to pander to the coal industry, to keep letting them have a free run, or to have so much influence over our democracy, that their narrow interests outweigh the interests of society as a whole. It is the role of government to govern in the common good, not to prop up the share price of fossil fuel corporations, most of which are foreign owned.

For decades now they have known that their emissions are a leading contributor to global warming, but they have used their power, money and influence to stymie every attempt to curtail them. When they should have been changing their business model and beginning the transition to renewable energy that we all know we must have, they have funded campaigns and lobbied politicians to maintain business as usual, all for their own personal gain.

It’s time to say ‘enough is enough’ and for governments to step in and regulate them, and regulate them hard, as they should have done 20 or more years ago. Now every citizen, and every animal on Earth, is at risk all for the greed and selfishness of a small number of people. This cannot be allowed to continue for one more day, let alone one more year, let alone one more decade. Time has run out.

The climate emergency is now at crisis point. This year, in 2016, we already passed the threshold of 1.5°C average global warming. Next El Nino, we will no doubt breach it again. We may even start to nudge the 2°C mark within the decade. All these things are happening faster than even the most pessimistic climate scientist thought possible in the 1990s. The Great Barrier Reef is dying before our eyes. Vast swathes of the planet are in almost constant drought, and others ravaged by floods and landslides. 2016 was the worst year ever for extreme weather events, that have killed and injured many thousands of people, ruined crops and caused damage to homes and infrastructure in the billions upon billions of dollars. We cannot afford to keep doing what we are doing on any measure. We can certainly not justify continuing business as usual because a few individuals might lose their money. They have had ample time to make changes to their business models, but they have refused to do so. Do not continue to reward this behaviour.

We have the technology to completely replace coal and gas with renewable energy within a decade if we make a concerted effort to do so, but we must start now. Don’t let the fossil fuel industry try to argue that gas is ‘clean’ and all we have to do is switch from coal to gas and everything will be fine. It is simply not so. This is simply an attempt to perpetuate their destructive business model. They claim that gas has low CO2 emissions, while deliberately ignoring the simple fact that methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, and that the entire gas system leaks massive quantities of methane into the atmosphere from end to end. This is not even including the extraordinarily damaging and polluting process of ‘fracking’ used to extract it. The only safe thing to do with coal and gas is to keep them in the ground where they belong.

We don’t need to keep burning fossil fuels to keep the lights on or to provide the much touted ‘jobs’ as the industry so often misleadingly claims. Vastly more jobs can be created by making the switch to renewable energy as quickly as humanly possible. By making the change to renewable energy, we stop sending most of our money overseas with every shipment of coal. By switching to renewables, if we do it intelligently, we keep money in this country. Rather than doubling down on an industry that is already dwindling, we could be creating thousands of jobs in manufacturing, design, engineering, installation, sales, project management, customer service, training and apprenticeships, and so much more.

Renewable energy is already cheaper than coal and getting cheaper all the time. Coal fired power is only going to become more expensive. The days of centralised power generation must draw to a close and we must build a more robust decentralised system as quickly as possible. Particularly as extreme weather events, like the one we saw in South Australia this year, happen with more frequency and intensity, we must begin to prepare now for what we know the future holds on a warming planet. Money saved on lower energy bills, less energy loss and maintenance costs in the transmission system, can then be reinvested into the economy, rather than flying off to foreign shareholders, overseas to tax havens, bloated CEO salaries, or Swiss bank accounts.

There will be many benefits to shutting down coal fired power stations and making the switch to renewable energy: less pollution, less damage to the landscape, less land lost to agriculture, less wasted water, less loss of habitat, less human health impacts. Above all, by taking part in the renewable energy revolution, we will provide more, cleaner, safer, better, nicer and more interesting jobs. The list of benefits goes on and on. But at the top of the list, is ensuring that we have a habitable planet for the foreseeable future. There is very little downside to doing this, other than it will upset the fossil fuel industry and various profiteers associated with them.

The fossil fuel lobby, and their allies in government, will cry ‘how are we going to pay for all this?’ The reply is, how much has the climate emergency already cost us? How much do famines cost? How do you measure the cost of a 10 year drought? What is the Great Barrier Reef worth? How do you put a value on an extinct species?

Shifting to renewable energy could easily be funded by levying the fossil fuel industry heavily; removing existing subsidies and rebates, raising royalty rates on minerals across the board, clamping down on corporate tax evasion, taxing multi-million dollar CEO salaries at a realistic rate, and, of course, putting a price on carbon emissions which we should have had in place for 20 years already. The cost of not doing this is unthinkable.

Far from being a radical idea, things like this are already being done in many countries in the world. Australia is lagging embarrassingly behind. If we do not do what we know we must do, we risk making irreparable damage to this planet, our only home, costing the lives of untold millions of people, risking losing at least two thirds of species, massive famines, fires, floods, earthquakes and things we can’t even picture yet. This is not ‘alarmism’ as the fossil fuel industry and their backers like to claim, this is all scientific fact. Indeed, we have already seen the start of it. There is far worse to come.

We know what we must do. Let’s stop wasting time and get on with it.

Miriam Robinson

Send a submission to the Coal Closure Inquiry

On 13 October 2016, the Australian Senate referred the matter of retirement of coal fired power stations to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and interim report by 28 November 2016 and final report by 1 February 2017.

The Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications therefore runs this inquiry into the case for planned closure of coal-fired power stations, policy mechanisms to encourage the retirement of coal-fired power stations from the National Electricity Market and policy mechanisms to provide a just transition for affected workers and communities.

The closing date for public submissions is 10 November 2016.

» Read more and upload your submission on www.aph.gov.au

» Quick and easy – use 350.org’s submission page:
Send a submission to the Senate Coal Closure Inquiry

» #NoNewCoal hashtag-stream on Twitter
» #NoNewCoal hashtag-stream on Facebook

Greenpeace: No new coalmines

“Most people would be skeptical of a tobacco company that simultaneously claimed it supported efforts to curb smoking while building a new cigarette factory. Yet Australia’s politicians say they want to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while planning to build new coal mines — and they go largely unchallenged.”
Richard Denniss, chief economist, The Australia Institute

“To underline the obvious, we really cannot simultaneously hail the Paris agreement as a turning point and rejoice in a glorious long-term economic future for the coal industry. Except that is exactly what the Turnbull government is doing.”
Lenore Taylor, Editor of Guardian Australia


Submission to the Committee Secretary,
Re: Retirement of coal fired power stations

On 4 November 2016 the Paris Agreement will go into effect. The world’s first universally adopted global climate agreement, uniting countries everywhere in fighting climate change. Australia hasn’t ratified the Agreement, which is symbolic of the cowardice position our federal government takes on the issue.

But the point of mentioning this here, is that now that it has been globally decided that ‘Destination Zero Carbon’ is where we are all heading, there are no societal advantages in procrastinating and delaying the action required to get there. The only ones who benefit economically from the delay are those few people who have an investment or a job in the fossil fuel industry. The faster and bolder we take action on climate change and reduce our emissions, the more benefits society as a whole will be experiencing.

Australia’s electricity system must be 100 per cent renewable by 2030 if not sooner, which means kickstarting an urgent coal closure process now.

Every two years, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology reassess the state of Australia’s climate. The latest report, ‘State of the Climate 2016’, finds an increase in extreme fire weather but also details for the first time the role that humans are playing some extreme weather events. The report shows Australia is being put at risk by those who cling to the energy systems of the past.

We have a climate emergency, but no one is reporting the facts. Politicians on both sides of Parliament say they will not lead with action until the public is aware, accepts the truth, and demands urgent action. But what you, our elected leaders, seem slow to pick up, is that the Australian population is fully aware and ready to step in, ready to help with taking stronger action: 65 per cent of Australians want you, our federal government, to take not just strong action on climate change, but to become a world leader in this field, according to a new report from the Climate Institute.

Australia needs to show leadership and join the countries who are taking the ‘well below 2°C degrees’ climate target seriously. If we mean what we say when signing the Paris Agreement, then it means no more new fossil fuels, anywhere. No new coal, oil or gas projects. No new permits for coal mines, fracking sites or drilling in the Bight. No new exploration. No more subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

There are no more excuses. We need to stop polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases as if it were an open sewer.

A national coal closure and clean energy transition plan is urgently needed to address the climate emergency. Australia has an old fleet of highly polluting coal power plants that represent our single largest contribution to global warming.

“Jobs,” you say? The new ‘Jobs in a Clean Energy Future’ report from Australian Conservation Foundation, using modelling by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, finds the policies needed to reduce 2005 levels of carbon pollution by 80 per cent by 2040 would generate far more jobs than were lost. Cutting carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate goals could generate more than one million extra jobs by 2040 as Australia transforms its energy and other sectors, provided policy settings are right.

While climate change confronts us with dangerous challenges, it also offers us some exciting possibilities to create change and improve our lives. Air pollution, globally, is killing 18,000 people every day.

A national coal closure and clean energy transition plan is urgently needed to ensure a just transition for our communities and workers. Coal power stations are one of the most significant sources of toxic air pollutants that harm human health and local environments. As the inevitable transition to clean energy takes place it is critical that the states and Federal Government create transparent and fair support plans for communities and workers in and around coal generators. And the cost of closure, rehabilitation and support plans for communities must be put back onto the big companies that have profited from polluting air and pumping carbon into the air for decades, not the taxpayer.

We remind you that you entered Parliament and were sworn in with promises to us, your voters, that you will do what you can to protect this nation. We simply cannot see this being the case with the current climate and fossil fuel policies. Under no calculation does the government’s plan to cut emissions measure up to Australia playing its part. Australia’s share of a global carbon budget to stay below 2°C degrees, let alone 1.5°C degrees, is practically non-existent. Closure of coal power stations must therefore be a critical priority.

Shut them down!

Mik Aidt

“It is not rocket science. We need to get carbon emissions down, we need to do it properly, and we need to do it quickly.”
Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance

A Fair Transition

Climate Action Moreland’s submission discusses and is guided by the following principles:

• Australia needs to rapidly transition to zero net emissions. The closure of coal fired power stations is an essential first step in this process.

• All of Australia’s communities need to plan a transition to a zero net emissions society based on 100% renewable energy and slashing energy wastage through energy efficiency and conservation.

• Communities that rely on coal power need a just transition plan that will not only mitigate the job losses experienced, but also help transform their economies to allow their communities to prosper in the future.

• In conjunction with the closure of coal-fired power, governments must complement these policies with strategies to ensure that our electricity systems are secure and reliable, and that electricity is affordable for all Australians.

• Rather than relying predominantly on market mechanisms, the transition will also require national planning, strong regulations and direct government investment and ownership.

» Climate Action Moreland:
Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Retirement of Coal-Fired Power Stations

Learn more about coal

Air pollution is killing 18,000 people every day.

“Six more nations are pledging to simply ditch coal in favour of cleaner forms of power generation. These six nations are Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Finland.”

» Futurism – 30 November 2016:
Six Countries Are Set to Completely Phase-Out Coal Power

» World Economic Forum – 27 October 2016:
Renewables have overtaken coal — the International Energy Agency says it’s a turning point

“The gap between what the scientists tell us we need to do to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic warming and what is politically possible seems to be growing daily. One way of explaining that is by looking at the power of vested interests.”

» The Conversation – 26 October 2016:
Another prime minister, another endorsement for coal – but why?

» The Conversation – 26 October 2016:
Australia’s coal politics are undermining democratic and Indigenous rights
“Can Australia achieve fair and open decision-making when big coal players are involved? The case of Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine suggests the answer is no, and Indigenous land owners are bearing the brunt.”

» The Guardian – 9 November 2016:
Australia’s coal-fired power stations ‘will need to shut at rate of one a year’, hearing told
‘Equivalent of a Hazelwood a year’ will need to close by early 2030s to meet Paris targets, witnesses tell Senate inquiry

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No new coal mines? Australian economy would be just fine!

The world has agreed to reduce emissions, and Australia has decided to dig up more fossil fuels. Someone has it wrong.

The Australia Institute produced a major report on the economic impact of Australia adopting a moratorium on new coal mines. What the findings show is that the Australian economy would be just fine if we decided to open no new coal mines.

Modelling shows that Australia’s economy would be barely affected by a moratorium on approval of new coal mines and mine expansions.

» Read the report ‘Never gonna dig you up’ to see why

» Read more on The Australia Institute’s website:
A Coal Moratorium and the Australian Economy

» Podcast – Richard Denniss and Rod Campbell explain why we don’t need any new coal mines:
Follow the Money – Episode 7: The economic case for No New Coal Mines


» Opposition leader Bill Shorten believes coal has a place in Australia’s future, writes SBS:
Coal power has a future, says Shorten

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Myth busting: “Coal is good for humanity”

» Vox – 25 October 2016:
Energy poverty is a real problem. Coal is a bogus solution.
“Coal only makes global poverty worse.”

» The Guardian – 31 October 2016:

“Climate denial often centers around myths about the importance of coal in alleviating poverty.”

Coal doesn’t help the poor; it makes them poorer

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» Helsinki Times – 3 November 2016:
Finland on its way to become world’s first country to ban coal use in energy production

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Reports and analysis

» The Green Institute:
The End of Coal

» Stockholm Environment Institute:
Implications for Australia of a 1.5 degree future

» Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:
Sub-Critical Australia: Risks from Market Imbalance in the Australian National Electricity Market

» Solar Citizens:
The Home-Grown Power Plan

» Climate Council:
Joint Statement on the Health Effects of Coal in Australia

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29 November 2016:
Parliamentary body calls for coal closure
A Senate Inquiry into coal closure released a report outlining the steps needed to close down our polluting coal-fired power stations in an orderly manner. This is the first time an Australian parliamentary body has called for the closure of coal-fired power and a plan to transition to renewable energy.

The report called for a national approach that would see our polluting power stations closed in a way that is in line with the climate change science, but that gives communities the time they need to plan for a post-coal future.

“Future generations will look back at the Turnbull and Abbott Governments in disgust. How could they know the science but chose to play dangerous political games with our climate to try appeal to fringe community elements and sell the lie of more jobs and economic growth in a dying industry?
But right now we can’t afford to let them abdicate leadership on an issue of such importance. We need to hold our rogue leaders — both political and business — who refuse to accept what we need to do to tackle climate change to account. We have to show them there is a different path.”
~ 350 Australia, ‘The canary in the coal mine is long dead’

No, new coal is not feasible: on price, reliability or emissions

“The proposition that new coal plants could be an effective solution to Australia’s energy needs should be treated with scepticism”

» The Guardian – 24 January 2017:
No, new coal is not feasible: on price, reliability or emissions


If you liked this blogpost

you could also take a look at…

» 11 October 2016:
No more bad investments
Philip Sutton calls for a campaign to end all further climate damaging investments.

» 27 October 2016:
From Paris to Geelong: we have to change
A compilation of recent news about the problem, and the solutions. Whether Australians realise it or not, the world is changing quickly – and as individuals we need to get involved.

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One comment

  1. Future generations are going to look back on our current generations and ask the question:


    They will look at us like we look back at past generations who had to rely on burning wood and whale oil for warmth, or earlier generations who had to rely on animal pelts.

    They will look upon our burning coal for electricity or oil to power cars as archaic BUT they will also wonder why we continued to do it well after the time that we DEVELOPED THE TECHNOLOGY to have moved forward.

    They will scratch their heads and wonder what held this generation back?

    How are we to explain that we spent decades pouring excess CO2 into THEIR atmosphere just because the Fossil Fuel companies wielded too much power and influence?

    How can we explain that these same companies delayed Climate cation for DECADES just so that they could continue to profit?

    How will we be able to explain that the mess they have been left to clean up is because of a greedy minority who did everything in their power to resist change, who created doubt, who infiltrated politics and who bought off technological advances and shelved them just to keep making a $$$$.

    These future generations are not going to look on us very favorably at all!!!!!

    It’s time for EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US to do whatever it takes to get serious Climate Action and to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground!

Comments are closed.