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Why Australia should NOT feel guilty about ramping up coal

Australia using more coal power to alleviate the energy crisis will make no difference to global warming while China, India and others build hundreds of new power plants and throw emissions targets out the window, according to Barnaby Joyce.

The new Labor government is urging coal power plants to increase output as soon as possible as the east coast shivers through a freezing winter and global gas prices soar.

The Greens have argued this is the wrong approach and have instead called for a massive and rapid investment in renewable energy to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2035.

But former deputy prime minister Mr Joyce said Australia will make no difference to global temperatures when China and India are pushing ahead with coal power.   

‘China’s had record production of coal in the past two quarters. If Australia were to disappear off the face of the earth, China would cover for us in about a month,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

This chart shows how China was behind 56 per cent of new coal power brought online in 2021

This map shows that China and India burn the most coal in the world and Australia is not in the top ten

This map shows that China and India burn the most coal in the world and Australia is not in the top ten

Steam billows out of the cooling towers at a coal-fired power station in Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu province

Steam billows out of the cooling towers at a coal-fired power station in Nanjing in east China’s Jiangsu province

Barnaby Joyce (pictured) said Australia will make no difference to global temperatures when China and India are pushing ahead with coal power.

Barnaby Joyce (pictured) said Australia will make no difference to global temperatures when China and India are pushing ahead with coal power.

China makes up about 29 per cent of global CO2 emissions while Australia emits about one per cent.

Last year China was responsible for 56 per cent of the world’s new coal power capacity, ahead of India on 14 per cent, South Korea on seven per cent and Indonesia on six per cent.

Australia has not built new coal power capacity since 2012. 

China’s new capacity almost offset all the coal plant retirements in the world, according to the Global Energy Monitor.

A report last year by think-tank Carbon Tracker found China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam were planning to build 600 new plants between them. 

China aims to reach net zero by 2060 but has signalled it will roll back its commitment for emissions to peak in 2030 after suffering power outages causing blackouts in major cities last year. 

Premier Li Keqiang said in October that energy security is the priority ahead of climate goals.

‘Energy security should be the premise on which a modern energy system is built and the capacity for energy self-supply should be enhanced,’ he said in a statement as he pledged to build more coal plants and drill for more oil and gas.

This pie chart show which nations are most responsible for global CO2 emissions

This pie chart show which nations are most responsible for global CO2 emissions

China accounts for roughly 29 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, pumping out twice the amount of the US which makes up about 14 per cent. Pictured: Beijing in February 2021

China accounts for roughly 29 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, pumping out twice the amount of the US which makes up about 14 per cent. Pictured: Beijing in February 2021

Last year India ramped up its coal production from 1.94 million to 2 million tonnes per day

Last year India ramped up its coal production from 1.94 million to 2 million tonnes per day

AUSTRALIA’S 11 STEP PLAN TO MANAGE GAS CRISIS 

Australia’s energy ministers have unanimously agreed to enhance the powers of energy regulators and give the market operator the capacity to procure and store gas supplies.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen chaired a roundtable with his state and territory counterparts on Wednesday, where 11 action points were unanimously agreed to.

Mr Bowen says the changes will give Australia the tools and capacity to manage the gas crisis going forward.

‘No silver bullet, no magic answers, but material steps forward in a very positive fashion,’ he told reporters following the meeting.

‘The Australian Energy Market Operator could not procure some gas and keep it in reserve to be released for urgent and crisis situations.

‘That is technically possible. There’s storage facilities around the country. We agreed to work to give AEMO that power and to give them that power expeditiously.’

Regulators will also be given more powers to ensure transparency in the market and that retailers work in the best interests of consumers.

The Australian Energy Market Commission has been instructed to proceed with the development of the capacity mechanism which ensures power plants are available to generate electricity when needed.

The development of a national transition plan for the energy market ahead of the next meeting in July has also been agreed to.

‘The reason why we are in this crisis today is because there hasn’t been enough planning about the changes that are necessary,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘That’s the result of poor planning and a previous government which didn’t see the opportunities for transmission, didn’t see the opportunity to renewable energy.’

Resources Minister Madeline King says unexpected outages of coal-fired power plants were adding to pressures on the energy grid as gas companies work to increase their output.

‘Existing coal fired power stations going offline due to planned and unplanned outages combines to see this extraordinary price,’ she told Sky News.

NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said the state’s coal-fired power stations needed to increase their output following the unexpected outages, to act as a stopgap with surging gas prices due to the war in Europe.

‘When we’ve got coal-fired power plants that are not in operation due to unscheduled outages, that means gas is filling the gap,’ he said.

‘We need to get our coal-fired power stations back cranking up. We need our power stations running at full tilt during the winter period, so we’re less reliant on gas and can put downward pressure on electricity prices.’

The domestic gas supply guarantee coming into play is also helping to provide some relief to the east coast, but prices will not drop substantially overnight, Ms King added.

‘The gas … is going to where it needs to be and that should flow through the system,’ she said.

‘I’m not saying we’re going to see a massive reduction in prices overnight. We’re certainly not because we still need those … existing coal fired power stations to come online. But the gas is moving around, more gas has been supplied.’

The ACT is set to become the only Australian jurisdiction to experience a small decrease in electricity prices off the back of large-scale renewable energy projects coming online, its economic regulator says.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said coal would remain a part of the energy mix, while Mr Bowen earlier warned there was no easy fix to the energy crisis as the nation was ill-prepared to manage it.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers is awaiting advice from the competition watchdog on the role and impact of coal-fired power plant shutdowns on energy prices and what regulations could be used.

 – Australian Associated Press

India, where millions are without electricity, aims to reach net zero as late as 2070 after rejecting a 2050 target fearing it would hinder growth and poverty alleviation.

The south Asian nation is responsible for seven per cent of global emissions, behind the US on 14 per cent but ahead of Russia on five per cent. 

Coal accounts for nearly 70 percent of India’s electricity generation and about three-quarters of the fossil fuel is mined domestically. 

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said Australia must act to reduce emissions to show ‘leadership’ on the world stage.

But Mr Joyce insisted it was too difficult to get China and India and other nations to follow. 

‘If you want to show leadership get China to release the Uighurs and get out of the South China Sea, let’s see how that goes,’ he said in reference to persecuted Muslims in China’s west.

‘Go and explain to (Indian President) Narendra Modi that 300million people have to stay in poverty.’   

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, and is set to increase its use further before 2030 – after which it has promised to start phasing the fuel out

While China’s overall coal consumption has increased, viewed as a share of its total energy usage it has started to come down as the country has used more natural gas – and started to develop renewables and nuclear energy

The world still has more than 2,400 coal-fired power plants operating across 179 countries, including 19 in Australia and 1,110 in China. 

In October China increased coal power production after power outages were reported in southern Guangdong province.

An additional 16 provinces were forced to ration energy due to a shortage in supply, but avoided full-scale blackouts.

In response, Shanxi – China’s biggest coal-producing region – ordered its 98 coal mines to raise their annual output capacity by 55.3 million tonnes and allowed 51 coal mines that had hit their maximum annual production levels to keep producing.

In China’s second biggest coal region, Inner Mongolia, 72 mines were told that they could operate at higher capacities immediately, provided they ensure safe production.

This year European nations have ordered increased coal production as a temporary measure to wean themselves off Russian gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Germany has drafted laws to prevent coal power stations destined for the scrapheap from being axed, ordering them to be kept on standby instead.

Italy, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic also plan to burn more coal and the UK is drilling for more gas in the North Sea.     

The UN has said if global emissions are not cut by 50 per cent by 2030, the climate crisis will lead to further wide-ranging and more destructive natural disasters, such as flood and drought.

Pupils cover their noses after school in heavy smog in December 2015 in Binzhou, China

Pupils cover their noses after school in heavy smog in December 2015 in Binzhou, China

If temperatures continue to rise, there could be devastating effects on Earth, including a dramatic loss of sea-life, an ice-free Arctic and more regular 'extreme' weather

If temperatures continue to rise, there could be devastating effects on Earth, including a dramatic loss of sea-life, an ice-free Arctic and more regular ‘extreme’ weather

About a quarter of Australia's coal-fired electricity production is offline due to planned and unplanned outages. Pictured: A power station in Victoria

About a quarter of Australia’s coal-fired electricity production is offline due to planned and unplanned outages. Pictured: A power station in Victoria

On Tuesday Anthony Albanese declared he was fine with firing up more coal power despite campaigning on a plan to phase down fossil fuels to fight climate change.

The Prime Minister blamed the Coalition for Australia’s energy crisis, insisting the former government failed to properly invest in renewables and the electricity grid during its nine years in office.

About a quarter of Australia’s coal-fired electricity production is offline due to planned and unplanned outages, while the east coast shivers through a freezing winter.

With gas supplies dear and energy bills set to skyrocket, Resources Minister Madeleine King on Tuesday called on coal power stations to increase their output as soon as possible.

Speaking in Darwin on his way back from a trip to Indonesia, Mr Albanese denied this move contradicted his climate ambitions.

Asked if he is ‘uncomfortable’ with relying on more coal power, the Prime Minister replied: ‘Not at all’ and later added: ‘Coal is part of our mix right now’.

Anthony Albanese (pictured today) has declared he is fine with firing up more coal power despite campaigning on a plan to phase down fossil fuels to fight climate change

Anthony Albanese (pictured today) has declared he is fine with firing up more coal power despite campaigning on a plan to phase down fossil fuels to fight climate change

Mr Albanese wants renewables to supply 82 per cent of electricity by 2030. Pictured: Williamdale Solar Farm, 35km south of Canberra

Mr Albanese wants renewables to supply 82 per cent of electricity by 2030. Pictured: Williamdale Solar Farm, 35km south of Canberra

About 60 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from coal, 32 per cent from renewables and eight per cent from gas.

Labor wants cheaper renewable sources to supply 82 per cent of electricity by 2030, claiming this will save households $275 a year by 2025, and $378 by 2030.

Mr Albanese admitted that international factors including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were driving up energy prices but said Australia is less able to deal with the shock due to the Coalition’s energy policies.

‘One of the problems that has occurred here is a failure of investment because the former government had 22 energy policies, and didn’t land one,’ he said.

About a quarter of Australia's coal-fired electricity production is currently offline while the east coast shivers through a freezing winter amid soaring price rises

About a quarter of Australia’s coal-fired electricity production is currently offline while the east coast shivers through a freezing winter amid soaring price rises

‘You don’t have a grid that’s fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Labor’s Rewiring the Nation plan will bring forward $20billion worth of grid upgrades identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator.

‘We didn’t make this up. This is what the experts… (were) recommending to the Government, and nothing happened,’ he said.

‘Nothing happened for nine years. And this is a direct consequence of that.’

He added: ‘There are international factors, but it’s also the factor of a failure of the former government to actually have an energy policy.’

Mr Albanese said if the grid was ‘fit for purpose’ and could take in more renewable energy then ‘you would have a real alleviation on pressures that are in place right now.’

Greens leader Adam Bandt (second left) insists that burning more coal is not the answer to rising power prices

Greens leader Adam Bandt (second left) insists that burning more coal is not the answer to rising power prices

The Greens have blasted Labor’s call for more coal and insisted a rapid investment in renewables is the way to go.

‘Propping up these aging plants would be throwing good money after bad,’ leader Adam Bandt told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘No amount of patching up these dirty clunkers will fix the problem.’

He said Australia should follow the example of the ACT which has generated all of its electricity from renewables since 2020.

While the east coast braces for soaring prices, power bills in the ACT are set to fall from July 1, providing an annual saving to households of $23.

The ACT is currently paying less than a quarter of the NSW market price for its electricity because it relies on solar and wind and is less vulnerable to global price shocks.

AGL currently has three coal power stations in NSW and Victoria either offline or on reduced capacity due to scheduled and unscheduled maintenance issues.

Origin’s Eraring power station, the largest in NSW, has also been crippled by coal production cutbacks at its neighbouring conveyor belt-connected coalmine.

It’s had to buy coal on the open market as prices surge because of the global crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine, which forces electricity prices up further.

Queensland’s Callide coal power station is also offline after an explosion at the plant, creating a perfect storm just as the bitter cold snap hit Australia’s east coast.

The maintenance work at affected power stations is not expected to be completed until July at the earliest while Callide is out until December, but Labor is demanding the work is now fast-tracked.

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