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New coal-fired power station still on cards despite emissions pledge

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open for a new coal-fired power station in Queensland, despite endorsing a new climate policy.

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Launching his plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 on Tuesday, Morrison was asked about a feasibility study being conducted into a proposed coal-fired plant in Collinsville.

He said the study was due to be completed in June 2022.

“Any investments that people wish to make, well they have to meet the necessary planning and other regulatory approvals for them to go ahead,” Morrison told reporters.

“They have to make sense to them commercially and if they stack up, they stack up.”

He said the plant would need to meet environmental and other approvals.

“Legal investments in this country are still legal,” he said.

His admission came as critics of the Government’s plan labelled it a missed opportunity.

Environment groups including Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation didn’t think enough was being done to cut emissions by 2030.

“The cost of too little action this decade far outweighs the cost of transitioning to a low pollution economy,” ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told parliament the fact the 2050 target would not be backed by legislation would be of benefit to coal communities in central Queensland and the NSW Hunter Valley.

“We wanted to make absolutely certain there was no legislation in there that enforced things,” he said.

“Legislation brings laws, laws are enforced by penalties, and those laws and penalties put coal workers at threat, meat workers at threat, the people in the Hunter Valley at threat, people in central Queensland at threat.”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the plan would “not shut down coal or gas production”.

The 129-page planning document said: “Australia’s coal and gas export industries will continue through to 2050 and beyond, supporting jobs and regional communities.”

However, the plan said it was expected “sectors like thermal coal and natural gas …will be affected by falling global demand and the shifting choices of international consumers”.

“Coal production will remain flat or decline slightly, by around six per cent (to 2030).”
But there would be ongoing demand for Australia’s high-quality coal and gas in emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific and Indo Pacific.

Climate policy veteran John Connor has flagged key omissions and a lack of detail in the Morrison government’s mid-century emissions plan.

The Carbon Market Institute chief executive thinks the coalition missed an opportunity to build on state government and business climate commitments.

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