Peter Hannam reports (Sydney Morning Herald 19 November 2017) that the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has condemned the prospect of a $1 billion loan to Adani, and Australia’s performance at the Bonn climate talks last week.
Providing a $1 billion loan to underwrite Adani’s proposed mega coal mine in Queensland would have “serious negative impacts” for Australia’s international reputation and “unpick the progress” of the Paris climate agreement, according to Christiana Figueres, a former United Nations climate chief.
Ms Figueres has written to the Turnbull government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), which is considering a concessional loan for a rail link from the mine to the coast.
The former executive secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change
sought to highlight that under the NAIF’s own enabling legislation, it “must not act in a way that is likely to cause damage to the Commonwealth government’s reputation, or that of a relevant State or Territory”.
Ms Figueres warned the expected total lifetime carbon emissions from burning coal from the proposed Carmichael in the Galilee basin would be 4.64 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide, according to details of the letter obtained by Fairfax Media.
At its peak, the mine’s product would trigger emissions of 120 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent, roughly equal to what Australia has pledged to cut by 2030 from current pollution levels under its Paris pledges.
“Based on these numbers, emissions that would result from burning Carmichael coal in one peak production year would completely cancel out the total emissions reduction effort Australia has committed to for the 13 years from now until 2030 under the Paris Agreement,” she said
The rail loan, now being considered by NAIF, has been a key point of debate in Queensland’s state elections, with polls indicating little support for concessional finance for Adani, a mining conglomerate owned by Indian billionaire Gautam Adani.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her government, if re-elected at Saturday’s elections, would have no role in assessing the NAIF loan, effectively blocking it. Oppositional leader Tim Nicholls supports the loan and has blasted the premier’s stance as putting thousands of regional jobs at risk.
Ms Figueres said her intervention was prompted by a “deep concern for planetary well-being, I cannot, in all good conscience, remain silent on an issue that threatens to unpick the progress represented by the Paris Agreement”.
“A decision by the NAIF (and the Australian Government) to financially support the Adani project would be likely to have serious negative impacts on Australia’s reputation, in particular that of the Commonwealth Government,” Ms Figueres said, highlighting Australia’s commitment to “refrain from acts which would defeat” the Paris accord’s object and purpose.
Ms Figueres’ letter to the NAIF was dated November 17, the final day of the Bonn climate talks aimed at nudging nations to increase their commitments to cut emissions two years on from the Paris accord.
Australia copped criticism at the gathering for its promotion of coal, with Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands calling for a change of government in Canberra and urging nations to stop burning the intensive-heavy fossil fuel.
Dean Bialek, a former Australian diplomat and advisor to small island states threatened by the rising sea levels driven by climate change, said Ms Figueres had been “utterly shocked to learn the government was considering a huge subsidy” for Adani during a recent visit to Australia.
“She felt compelled to explain to the NAIF Board how dangerous and irresponsible this project would be in global environmental terms, and the serious damage it would do to Australia’s international reputation and standing in the world,” said Dr Bialek, who now works with Ms Figueres on her Mission 2020.
The project is attempting to accelerate climate action to get global emissions peaking and then trending lower by 2020. A report out last week by the Global Carbon Project estimated emissions will jump this year by 2 per cent after flatlining for three years, to a record 41 billion tonnes of CO2.