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Paying the polluter propping up a failing industry.

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Christine Milne

Australian Senate Australian Greens Senators for Tasmania

media release

Paying the polluter Propping up a failing industry

Canberra, Wednesday 16 April 2008 Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, today condemned calls by the Australian Coal Association, CFMEU, WWF and the Climate Institute, for increased government support for geosequestration as greenwashing a proposal to pay the polluter and prop up a failing industry.

Senator Milne said “The Cancer Council did not push for government funding to tobacco giants to see if low tar cigarettes caused less cancer. Neither should WWF, the Climate Institute and the CFMEU be pushing the government to help the equally rich coal companies see if they can bring down emissions to levels which, as they know, will still be dangerously high.

“The answer then was quit smoking. The answer now is just as straight-forward. Why throw taxpayers’ dollars at an expensive and unproven technology when the renewable energy and energy efficiency alternatives are affordable and ready to start cutting emissions immediately?

“As WWF and the Climate Institute should know, the urgency of dealing with climate change is such that we must put every bit of support we can into the technologies that can reduce emissions now, not pin our hopes on an unproven and risky techno-fix that would be completely bypassed if it didn’t involve one of the world’s most powerful industries.

“The dream of cleaning up coal is slipping away, with the collapse of the FutureGen project in the USA being the latest example of blown-out budgets and timelines. Industry spokespeople in Australia and around the world are now admitting that their expectations of commercially-viable ‘clean coal’ by 2020 are looking increasingly unlikely.

“Under what perverse logic does the failure of an industry to perform require that it is given extra support? Many gigawatts of baseload-capable renewable energy are being installed around the world today, while the best estimates of the coal sector, that they could have a handful of commercial plants online by 2020, are being revealed as wishful thinking.

“The argument that we need to know if ‘clean coal’ can work is only justifiable if you see the world through a cloud of coal dust. What we really need to know is: what are our best, fastest and most effective options for completely decarbonising our energy supply?

“We already know the answer, and so-called ‘clean coal’ fails to make the grade as it is unproven, slow and can never be truly carbon free. Investing now in efficiency and proven renewables like solar thermal and wind is the real answer to the real question.

“Today’s proposal would undermine the planned emissions trading scheme by undermining the polluter pays principle that lies at its heart. Calling for the Government to take control of finding carbon dumping sites and carrying liability for leaks, let alone asking for tax incentives and accelerated depreciation for Australia’s biggest and richest polluters, is simply untenable.

“The goal of 10,000 GWh from geosequestration by 2020 is both optimistic and a tiny drop in the ocean of carbon emissions. Renewables already generate more power than that in Australia and, by 2020, will be well on their way to making coal redundant.

“If you want to reduce emissions fast, do not head down this “coal-de-sac”.”

Contact: Tim Hollo on 0437 587 562