What Clive Hamilton told Frydenberg when he quit Climate Change Authority
13 February 2017
Professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton has resigned from the Climate Change Authority, appalled with recent federal government support and potential subsidy for “clean coal”, a term he says was coined by a PR firm for the coal industry.
The government’s support of coal has also been accompanied by attacks on renewables, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has again blamed for last year’s South Australia blackout, despite his department receiving advice stating that the generation mix was not a culprit.
Professor Hamilton said the government’s support for coal was “perverse” in the context of 2016 being the hottest year on record globally, and said the Coalition had abandoned all pretence that it took global warming seriously.
He also said it was “unconscionable” that the government was putting its burden to respond to climate change on the rest of the world, including the poor.
Here is the full text of the letter:
Dear Mr Frydenberg,
I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as a member of the Climate Change Authority, effective immediately.
The government’s recently announced interest in supporting, and even subsidising, the construction of a number of new coal-fired power plants can only mean that the Coalition Government has abandoned all pretence of taking global warming seriously. That the Prime Minister should make such an announcement after we learned that 2016 was the hottest year on record globally was perverse, to say the least.
The so-called highly efficient coal-fired power plants the government now says it supports could reduce emissions by at best 20 per cent compared to the existing ones. Building 10 of them would be equivalent to building eight of the old ones, or building 10 old ones and retiring them after 40 years instead of 50.
If new coal-fired power plants were built, it would make the government’s already weak 2030 reduction target unattainable. Deeper cuts in the subsequent decades, essential to limit the worst impacts of warming, would be off the table.
No government remotely concerned about the impacts of a warming globe on the health, lives and wellbeing of Australians could even consider such a path. You and the Prime Minister are in effect saying to the world that Australia’s share of the burden of limiting warming to 2°C must now be covered by other countries, including poor ones. This is unconscionable.
And no government that describes the dirtiest form of electricity using the deeply dishonest term “clean coal”, invented by a PR company for the coal industry, can be believed when it says it wants to reduce Australia’s emissions.
Your dismissive reaction to the Climate Change Authority’s 2016 report arising from its special review makes it crystal clear that the government has no interest in sensible climate policy. The Prime Minister’s rejection of the report is all the more disturbing given that it was prepared and put to him by his own appointees.
Professor of Public Ethics,
Charles Sturt University