Labor confusion on coal continues

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan has called on Labor to stop sending mixed messages about Australia’s coal sector and get behind an industry which is buttressing the nation’s economy.

Minister Canavan’s call follows statements made yesterday by Labor’s Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler calling into question the global prospects for Australia’s coal industry.

When asked by ABC’s Patricia Karvelas whether coal had a strong future in Australia Mr Butler talked down the industry’s prospects, stating that, “We’ve already seen a very substantial shift over the last five or six years in China’s appetite for thermal coal, largely driven by air quality concerns in that country as much as climate change.”

“This statement is misleading at best,” Minister Canavan said.

International Energy Agency (IEA) data on Chinese thermal coal consumption increased from 2.5 billion tonnes of coal equivalent in 2008 to more than 3 billion tonnes in 2011 and has remained broadly at this level since, with China consuming 3.2 billion tonnes in 2018.

Minister Canavan said total Chinese imports of thermal coal boomed over the same period going from 36 million tonnes in 2008 to 230 million tonnes in 2018.

“According to the IEA, the outlook for the coal industry, and particularly the Australian coal industry, is strong.”

The latest IEA World Energy Outlook projects total global coal demand for both thermal and metallurgical coal to grow by 1.6 per cent to 2040 and that Australia would enjoy a growing share of international coal trade with net exports forecast to grow by around 20 per cent in the same period.

Minister Canavan said in its ‘new policies scenario’, which includes countries’ Paris commitments, the IEA also projected that total Asia Pacific coal demand would increase by 492 million tonnes of coal equivalent or 12 per cent by 2040.

“Australian industry only produces about 250 million tonnes of thermal coal a year in total, including our domestic needs. So it's an incredible opportunity for our nation to capture—if we support these jobs and support these regions, and, of course, if we also continue to provide high-quality energy to the rest of the world,” he said.

“This is a fantastic opportunity because the growing demand for energy and minerals in our region means countries will continue to demand high-quality resources, and we have been blessed with some of the highest quality coal in the world. That is why I travelled to India last week. We need to promote our world class coal and mineral resources to the political and business leaders of the world’s fastest growing major economy.

“Depending on who you talk to in the Labor party you hear a different story on coal. This week we saw Joel Fitzgibbon talk up the prospects for Australia’s ‘clean and efficient’ coal on the back of demand from China and India. Then on Thursday Mark Butler was talking down the industry’s prospects with misleading statistics.

“It is particularly irresponsible of Labor’s shadow ministers to undermine confidence in such an important Australian industry at this time. Labor needs to accept the facts and get behind the industry for the good of all Australians.”

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