Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Climate Change: An industry in denial

Over the past few years it has become clear that coal has no future in Aotearoa. Rising carbon prices, a ban on new boilers and a legislated phase-out for existing infrastructure are going to drive it out of the market. To reinforce this, the government signed up for an anti-coal pledge at COP26 in Glasgow (though they did this without any new policy commitments, of course). But despite all this, the coal industry simply isn't getting the message:

However, both Bathurst Resources and New Vale and Ohai Coal say they will not be changing long-term strategies as a result of the international commitments.

Bathurst Resources chief executive Richard Tacon said it was still working to continue to supply coal to customers until 2037, a timeframe that had been decided upon by larger industries in consultation with the Government.


The New Vale mine had more than 20 years of life left and employed 42 people, and as long as it remained profitable mining would continue, he said.

It had not begun planning for the eventual phase-out of coal, he said.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen. At the end of the day, they haven’t got a replacement for coal ... there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.

This is the sound of an industry in deep, deep denial about its lack of a future. And that denial and refusal to shut down is going to lead to more coal being burned and higher emissions. So what can we do about it? I think the answer is to bring the policy forward and kill it faster. We need an immediate legislative ban on new coal infrastructure, and the phase-out needs to be brought forward to 2030 (or earlier, if we think we can get away with it). It also needs to be coupled with amendments to the Crown Minerals Act and RMA to ban new exploration permits and phase out all existing mining permits and resources consents for coal mining. Again, 2030 seems like an appropriate date to use. The market isn't going to kill this dirty, polluting industry by itself, so we need government to put a legislative stake through its heart.