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Australia Refuses To Join 40 Nations Phasing Out Coal

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The pledge at the Cop26 climate summit to end the use of coal power – by the 2030s “or as soon as possible thereafter” for the wealthy, and the 2040s by developing nations – was backed by five of the biggest 20 coal power users: South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland and Ukraine. However, The Morrison government will not join more than 40 countries committing to phase out coal power, with Angus Taylor declaring Australia was focused on developing technology not “wiping out industries”.

Neither statement was signed by Australia, China, Japan or India, and the phase-out dates for coal power were later than the British hosts of the summit – which had set a goal of “consigning coal to history” – had suggested.

A separate group of countries, including the US, Canada and the UK, pledged to end overseas investment in coal, oil and gas by the end of next year.

But supporters of the push said the formal commitment regarding coal remained a significant step – one that was unimaginable a few years ago. The Paris agreement, the global climate deal signed in 2015, does not explicitly mention the need to stop using fossil fuels.

They said it built on a previous G20 commitment by all major economies, including China, to stop public financing for new dirty coal plants overseas from this year.

Asked whether the deals meant the end of coal was in sight, Taylor – Australia’s emissions reduction minister – said the government’s focus was “not on wiping out industries”.

“It’s on bringing down the cost of low-emissions technologies and making sure those low-emissions technologies can deliver for Australians and for our customers throughout the world,” he said in Glasgow.

“We will supply the products our customers need to bring down their emissions over time. This can’t happen overnight, let’s be clear about this. There is a sensible pathway here, Australia will be part of it.”

“The Australian government is trying to push Australia backward while the world moves forward,” he said. “Indonesia, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, has signed up to the … transition to phase out coal and Vietnam, an Australian coal client, is pulling the handbrake on new initiatives. This is just the start.”

The Morrison government’s 2050 net zero emissions plan has been criticised for not including new policies to reduce emissions in the short term as the scientific advice says is necessary, and relying on new technology to become cheap enough to make deep cuts in the 2030s and 40s.

The federal resources minister, Keith Pitt, announced on Thursday the government had started public consultation on 10 potential areas that could be opened up for new offshore oil and gas exploration.

Cormann cited OECD data that direct support for fossil fuel production across 50 advanced and emerging economies increased by 5% in 2020, partly due to government bailouts for state oil and electricity companies.

Taylor is due to leave Cop26 on Friday. Australia’s delegation will then be led by Jamie Isbister, the ambassador for the environment, during the second week of talks.

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