Mining companies lobby G20 leaders to back coal as future of energy
Mining companies are campaigning for the G20 leaders’ meeting to support continued use of coal as a solution to the global “energy poverty” crisis, as Australia resists the inclusion of climate change on the formal agenda.
Peabody – the world’s largest private coal miner – has launched an online campaign titled the “Lights On” project to convince G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane next month that access to coal-fired power is crucial for “empowering” developing countries.
The G20 push, using social media and video, is part of an international campaign the company commissioned with PR firm Burson-Marsteller targeting China, America and Australia, called “Advanced Energy for Life”.
While the prime minister has resisted pressure from the United States and Europe for climate change to be included in the G20 agenda on the grounds that it does not fit the meeting’s economic focus, Peabody’s Australian president Charles Meintjes was invited to make a presentation to a workshop for the G20’s energy program in Brisbane in August.
In the presentation Meintjes argued that “coal is the only affordable fuel, at scale, to meet rising energy needs” of the world’s poor, including graphs claiming a clear correlation between rising coal consumption and rising life expectancy and global GDP.
Dr Simon Bradshaw, of Oxfam Australia, said the mining industry was “very active” in the lead up to the G20, but contrary to its arguments, renewable energy “offers a far better prospect for increasing access to electricity in most countries and most markets”.
“Climate change is a major threat in the fight against hunger and poverty and coal burning is the single biggest contributor to climate change,” Bradshaw said, adding that it would be “very unfortunate” if G20 leaders accepted the coal industry’s “self serving arguments.”
He said in his opinion the presentation, made to industry and non-government representatives and international energy officials, drew some “very dubious correlations and mounted some pretty unsophisticated arguments.”
The participants were not told to keep the slideshow confidential or secret. Guardian Australia has obtained a copy of the presentation, which can be seen here (pdf).
“It would be highly inappropriate if the G20 was to be captured by the vested interests of companies spruiking last century’s dirty energy sources”, said Dermot O’Gorman, the chief executive of WWF Australia.
“Poor people in developing countries deserve access to clean, safe and affordable energy sources and this should be the primary motivation for the G20, rather than protecting the coal industry and running the risk of creating stranded assets.”
Abbott has played down the chances of climate change being discussed by the world leaders who will gather in Brisbane because its primary focus was “economic security, our financial stabilisation, the importance of private sector-led growth.’’
But despite Australia’s reluctance, Barack Obama’s international adviser, Caroline Atkinson, told the Australian Financial Review this week that since G20 economies generated 80% of the world’s carbon emissions the meeting should give political impetus to “specific steps” to reduce global warming.
Opening a new coal mine on Monday, Abbott said: “let’s have no demonisation of coal. Coal is good for humanity.”
Abbott did not attend the special UN climate summit in New York in October, where both Obama and British prime minister David Cameron urged decisive action to contain global warming.
The government has said it will include energy efficiency in the G20 discussions, and during those talks other leaders are likely to raise climate change.