(EnergyAsia, July 5 2013, Friday) — Australia “cannot afford” to develop 91 coal projects that will change the climate, warns Greenpeace, while the industry’s world association has criticised the country’s climate commission for being driven by “ideology”.

In a special report, Greenpeace provides details of the 91 new coal projects planned for Australia, with a warning from one of the country’s top climate scientists, Professor Lesley Hughes:

“We simply have to leave about 80% of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground. We cannot afford to burn them and still have a stable and safe climate.”

According to Greenpeace, the planners for the 91 projects in Queensland and New South Wales states aim to ramp up production to 2018 to add to the 100 black coal mines already in operation.

“If these new projects operate at capacity, they would produce a massive 604 million tonnes of coal per year,” said the non-profit green group.

“When this coal is burnt, this would create an additional 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually. That’s nearly three times the amount of greenhouse gases Australia currently emits every year.”

This news came off the back of a new report from the Climate Commission entitled “The Critical Decade 2013.”

Greenpeace said the projected numbers fly in the face of what science is telling us to do.

It said: “The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that to meet the two degree goal, global demand for coal must peak in 2016 and decline annually from then on.

“Australia has committed to not allow global average temperatures to rise by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. This commitment has support from both sides of politics.

“Our politicians have a choice between coal and the world we hand to our children. We cannot protect Australia from the consequences of dangerous climate change and continue expanding our coal industry. Our political leaders have so far failed to respond to urgent threat to the future of the country posed by an expanded coal industry.”

Greenpeace said that if these 91 projects are built, they would significantly add to already dangerous levels of global warming. These are the projects that must be halted if we’re to meet our climate change commitments, and protect the future wellbeing of the country.

Taking the opposite stance, the World Coal Association (WCA) said Australia’s Climate Commission (ACC) has published a report, “The Critical Decade 2013: Climate Change Science, Risk & Response,” that is driven by ideology.

The report calls for the Australian coal industry to be restructured to reduce its carbon emissions.

Milton Catelin, the WCA’s CEO, said:

“The Climate Commission report brings no intellectual rigour to analysing coal. It can be said to have conducted the equivalent of a cost-benefit analysis without looking at the benefit side.

“This report is a disappointment from a climate change perspective. We would encourage the Australian government to work with the coal industry on deploying technologies to reduce emissions from coal, while allowing Australia to continue to enjoy the economic benefits [coal] brings.”

According to the report, Australia’s coal reserves have the potential to release about 51 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, which the WCA hotly disputes.

The association said the loss of the coal industry would reduce Australia’s GDP by between A$29 billion and A$36 billion per year. (US$1=A$1.05).

Mr Catelin said: “In Asia, where most Australian coal exports are destined, coal plays a strong role in social and economic development. In China, coal has been the major energy source fuelling the industrial development that has raised over 660 million people out of poverty over the past three decades.

“It is wrong that the Australian Climate Commission should think to dictate that other developing countries should not access the fuel that has driven down poverty in China and driven the prosperity of the Western world.

“The report also does nothing to address climate change in a realistic or sustainable manner. It does nothing to support improvements in energy efficiency at power stations or the deployment of carbon capture and storage – something the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the IEA have stated are necessary to tackling global warming successfully.”