The reality has finally dawned on Labor that Net Zero means no new coal projects.
This is something that the Greens and the Climate Council have been saying for years and is the reason why Adam Bandt has consistently been pushing to put a stop to all new fossil fuel projects throughout the country.
The Australian Financial Review reported that in a bid to reassure their constituents in NSW’s resource-industry-dependent Hunter Valley, opposition MPs promised that under an Albanese Labor government: ‘Every coal mine in Australia will be exempt from having to buy carbon credits or reduce emissions.’
These carbon credits and emission reduction commitments sit right at the very heart of Labor’s climate change policy as well as its 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 and Net Zero emissions by 2050 targets.
The promised blanket exemption on all coal mines amounts to an admission that Net Zero is inherently inconsistent with the commencement of new coal mines in Australia. Labor is starting to realise the damaging consequences that Net Zero will inflict on families and communities across the nation, especially those in regions like the Hunter Valley.
A landmark study released recently by the Institute of Public Affairs has found that upcoming coal and gas investments in the New South Wales Hunter region (which includes Hunter Valley, Newcastle, and Lake Macquarie) is expected to produce a total of 22,000 jobs in the foreseeable future, representing close to 7 per cent of the region’s labour force and four years’ worth of job creation. In economic terms, these projects would inject $12 billion into the region, equivalent to around a fifth of its current gross regional product. All of these would have to be foregone unless we revise our misguided commitment to Net Zero.
The impact on North Queensland will be even more severe. Halting the progress of resources projects in the pipeline in this area will stop the creation of 125,000 jobs, which is the equivalent to 36 per cent of the current workforce or 25 years’ worth of job creation in this part of the country.
More broadly, Net Zero will cost Australia, at the very least, $274 billion in unrealised economic activity (which is the equivalent to 13.5 per cent of our annual GDP) and over 478,000 jobs.
The IPA derived these figures from analysing the employment and economic impacts of cancelling new fossil fuel projects that have been announced but are yet to receive all the necessary approvals – cancellation which would be necessary if Australia were to achieve its current Net Zero target. But they are more than just statistical figures. These numbers represent high-paying positions that would have to be sacrificed, families and local communities in the regions that would be devastated, and tax revenues that would be lost – all in the name of pursuing a Net Zero target.
The government, for its part, seeks to cast doubt on the credibility of the Labor MPs’ commitment to exempt coal mines from the carbon credit and emission reduction requirements, with Senator Matt Canavan saying:
‘[Labor] MPs are saying that coal mines will be exempt from buying carbon credits, but Labor’s national policy says no such thing.’
So far, the Coalition has not made clear how it will reconcile the irreconcilable, namely – committing to Net Zero by 2050 and supporting new fossil fuel extraction projects at the same time. These are projects which will deliver hundreds of thousands of jobs for Australians in addition to billions of dollars’ worth of economic development.
The government should openly come out and admit that, indeed, its support for the resources industry and commitment to Net Zero are fundamentally incompatible – and, therefore, the Net Zero by 2050 policy must go.
Dr Kevin You is a research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs.
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