NEW DELHI: Is the multi million Adani coal mine project in Australia doomed? It would appear so from the Interview given to The Citizen by BLAIR PALESE, the CEO of 350.org, a “movement” steering environment groups across Australia. An American by birth Palese helped found 350.0rg in Australia in 2009 and is based in Sydney.
She minced no words in describing the “massive” environmental threat to the environment and Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef by the Adani coal mine project. She was categorical that the people would not allow the Adani project to continue, it having become the biggest environmental issue in Australia with thousands joining the campaign being run by her organisation with 180 local groups, every week.
Q. What exactly are your concerns about the Adani coal mine project?
A. The Adani mine would not only be a massive threat to the global climate but also to Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef as the mined coal would be shipped through the reef and add more warming ocean impacts when the coal is burned. This mine alone will see up to 2.3 billion tonnes of coal extracted from an area five times the size of Sydney Harbour over 60 years. This is equivalent to emitting 7.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. We know that the global carbon budget is now less than 500 billion tonnes in order to have an 80% chance of keeping global average temperature rise to less than 2℃ so this one mine would threaten our ability to avoid catastrophic climate change. And given that Australia – and the rest of the world – has agreed to keep global warming to under 2 degrees through the UN Paris agreement, a coal mine of this size is a threat to our hopes of living up to our global commitments.
Q. Is this one of the largest such projects in Australia?
A. The Adani Carmichael mine would not only be the biggest coal mine in Australia, it would be the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. And in addition to this specific mine, the project would open up the Galilee Basin coal region with new infrastructure that would mean a number of other new mines could be opened. If extracted and burnt, the coal in this region would take the world one-third of the way toward 2℃ of global warming.
Q. Environmental groups have been protesting against this for over two years now. Why blame Adani, when the Australian government seems to be doing all it can to facilitate this project?
A. Environmental groups have protested to prevent the Adani coal mine at every level including campaigning against the Australian Federal Government that allowed the mine to be approved, ignoring important environmental and water concerns, the Queensland government and by bringing numerous federal and state law suit challenges and suits brought by the traditional Aboriginal land owners of the region where the mine would be located.
Both governments and companies have a responsibility to make the transition from polluting to clean energy and environmental groups in Australia and around the world are working to demand that transition at all levels if we are to succeed in avoiding the worst climate change impacts.
Q. Do you think your protests will stall the project or is your government still playing deaf?
A. Those of us fighting climate change here in Australia and the 180 local groups that have joined the effort to stop the Adani mine are amazed that the Australian Federal Government and Queensland Government can continue to push for a project of this size and destructive scale despite all that we know about the potential impact on our climate, reef, water, environment and traditional land rights.
With investors unwilling to touch this project, to date the only possible financing Adani may find is an Australian A$1 billion tax payer loan for the rail infrastructure that seems nothing more than an attempt to buy a handful of votes in marginal Queensland seats — an expensive and short-sighted sell out of our national and global interests. Campaigners are doing all we can to prevent this loan from going ahead as it makes no economic or environmental sense but we don’t know if we will be able to stop it.
Q. You must have seen the Adani video flashing “Lies” . Your response?
A. Australia’s most reputable investigative television program Four Corners recently produced a scathing expose about Adani, and it’s environmental and human rights abuses and business track record in India and around the world. It’s clear this company cannot and should not be trusted with our climate and environment nor with inflated promises about what the mine would bring in terms of economic and jobs benefits. The program outlines Adani’s history of corruption, ignoring environmental and development regulations, tax avoidance through off shore tax havens and disregard for worker and community safety that raise serious questions about why Australia would want to do business with such a company. Information about the Four Corners program: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/digging-into-adani/9008500.
In addition, international investment banks and Australia’s four biggest banks have refused to invest in Adani’s Carmichael coal project indicating that the company and the project raise serious concerns about its viability.
Q. No coal, no energy, what about that argument?
A. Clean, renewable energy is not only better for our climate and environment but is now cheaper in virtually all forms and countries with the added advantage of mitigating growing air pollution health threats that are a serious problem in India. Knowing that we are threatened by climate change impacts that could see the world warm as much as 4C to 6C degrees with catastrophic results in India, Australia and the world, it makes no sense to pursue polluting coal when we have cheaper and better alternatives.
Australia and the rest of the world should be assisting India and countries everywhere to make the transition to wind, solar and other forms of clean energy rather than pursuing more expensive and polluting energy if we are to maintain a liveable climate.
Q. What now? More so if the project goes ahead….
A. Here in Australia, the fight to stop the Adani coal mine has become the biggest environmental issue of our time with thousands joining the campaign weekly and I have no doubt that no matter what our Federal and Queensland governments do to prop up this dangerous coal project, the Australian public will step up to take action to ensure this mine does not go ahead. Now, more than ever, when facing the destructive climate risk posed by a mine the size of Adani’s, Australians and people around the world will act to ensure such projects cannot go ahead.