Blog | 12th Mar, 2012

Is ending our addiction to coal really that outrageous?

In the past days the issue of Australian coal exports made news headlines with the emergence of a funding proposal (involving Greenpeace and Environment Victoria and others) to stop the expansion of Australia’s export coal industry. This prompted an extraordinary response from the coal and mining industry claiming to be outraged that environment groups want to, er, stand up for the environment.

To be honest, here at Environment Victoria, we’re wondering why that’s so outrageous!

The coal and mining lobby pushed every available panic button questioning the legality of legitimate activism and citizenship for a clean energy future, claiming that environment groups were economic vandals by trying to stop the endless growth of the coal industry. Greenpeace valiantly defended the environment sector.

It’s no secret that environment groups like Environment Victoria and Greenpeace would advocate for an end to Australia’s reliance on coal in favour for clean energy. And it really shouldn’t shock anyone that we would use legitimate policy-making and legal processes to do so. So what’s so outrageous?

Perhaps the coal and mining lobby outrage is meant to divert focus away from the fact that burning coal warms the planet beyond safe limits and places humans at grave risk. Making that problem worse by expanding Australia’s coal exports is unethical and dangerous. And quite frankly its economically irresponsible. World leading economists have repeatedly shown that inaction on climate change will cost much more than taking action, including action to move rapidly to clean energy.

Perhaps this outrage is focused on discrediting environment groups at a time when the social license for coal power wanes. Independent polling released last week by Environment Victoria showed that 78 per cent of Victorians want more renewable energy and only 7 per cent want more coal in the next five years.

Only the coal and mining industry know what’s behind their outrage but we can be clear on where Environment Victoria stands.

We do want to stop the growth of the coal industry because we accept that coal is highly polluting and its expansion is dangerous. We do want to see existing coal plants replaced with renewable energy because this will provide us with secure and safe energy. We do want Australia to move to exporting clean-technologies, not polluting coal. We are for the economic growth of the clean energy sector and the new jobs associated with it and we do want to see coal communities supported in this transition. And finally, we’re proud to be part of an environment movement that collaborates to get the best outcomes for our environment and Australians.

Finally, we are disappointed that our funding has been questioned yet again in The Australian newspaper. To this we repeat our previous comments. Our campaigns and advocacy work is independently funded by concerned Victorians who want a healthy future. We receive some federal and state government funds to train and educate communities on issues important to those governments including clean energy. These funds are managed separately and are not used to fund our campaigns. It is completely legitimate for governments to fund community groups to provide information to communities, just as governments fund business groups to help businesses.

At Environment Victoria we will never shy away from speaking up for our environment and communities and we encourage the coal and mining industries to do the same.

Kelly O’Shanassy
CEO, Environment Victoria


Check out the take on this from:

The Australia Institute