Australia will protect the coral reef by banning coal mining
CANBERRA – Australia’s new government announced plans on Thursday to prevent the development of a coal mine due to the potential impact on the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has said she intends to refuse approval for the Central Queensland Coal project to be excavated northwest of the Queensland town of Rockhampton.
The minority Greens party pressured the centre-left Labor Party government, elected in May, to refuse approval for coal or gas projects, to help reduce gas emissions to Australia’s greenhouse.
“Based on the information available to me at this stage, I believe that the project would likely have unacceptable impacts on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and on the values of the World Heritage Area and National Heritage Place of the Great Barrier Reef,” Plibersek said in a statement.
The marine park manages the network of over 2,500 reefs that cover 348,000 square kilometers (134,000 square miles) of seabed off Australia’s northeast coast. The World Heritage Area, designated by the United Nations and Australia’s National Heritage List, includes natural, historic and Indigenous places of outstanding significance to the nation.
UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, is considering downgrading the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status primarily because rising ocean temperatures are killing the coral.
The mine proponents have 10 working days to respond to the proposed denial before the Minister makes her final decision.
The Greens welcomed the news and urged the minister to reject another 26 planned coal mines.
“We now need a general moratorium on all new coal and gas projects,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said in a statement.
The proposed decision was announced after the House of Representatives passed a bill that would enshrine in law the government’s ambition to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 43% below baseline levels. 2005 by the end of the decade. The bill passed by 89 votes to 55.
The previous government’s target was a 26-28% reduction, set at the Paris climate conference in 2015.
An amendment proposed by the Greens that would have recognized that no new coal, oil or gas projects could be launched if Australia were to meet its net zero emissions target by 2050 was voted down on Thursday.
The government is confident the bill will pass the Senate next month with the support of the 12 Green senators, who would prefer a 2030 target of a 75% reduction.
The apparently doomed mine was reportedly an open-pit operation that extracted up to 10 million metric tons (11 million US tons) of coal per year.
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