Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Burning their social licence

The Warehouse, one of New Zealand's biggest retailers, has decided to stop selling coal. Good. Coal is a dirty, polluting fossil fuel, and the less of it we have out there, the better. Retailers choosing not to sell it sends a clear message that this is not a fuel we want in this country.

Of course, domestic coal use is only 1% of the total - the real villains here are the dairy, steel, and electricity industries. But their use is also being challenged, and they are being encouraged to move away from coal. And the Warehouse's move helps that struggle too, by de-legitimising coal as a fuel and undermining the industry's social licence. After all, if retailers won't sell it, then why should we allow people to burn it in their dirty, stinking factories?

But we need to go further, and cut off the supply, as we are doing for gas. If we are to avoid making the Earth uninhabitable, we cannot burn coal. It is that simple. And that means setting a timeline to cancel mining permits and resource consents and ban imports. And the sooner we do that, the easier it will be for people to make the switch.