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Friday, May 6, 2016

Greg Hunt ignores coal mining impact on Great Barrier Reef

In the outline of submissions filed on behalf of Minister for the Environment, the Australian Government Solicitor explains that the minister did not think the burning of the coal “would be a substantial cause of climate change effects” and would have “no impact on matters of national environmental significance”.
He concluded that there “was no requisite relationship between combustion emissions and increases in global temperature”.
Further, the minister argued that since the net impact was “difficult to identify”, there was no need to impose conditions on the mine, such as that climate impacts would be offset.
“Put simply, because any increase in net global greenhouse gas emissions was a matter of speculation, there was no need for or utility in the imposition of conditions.”
These submissions on behalf of the minister fail to mention fugitive emissions from coal mining. His department revised projected fugitive emissions from coal mining in 2014-2015, dramatically lowering the 2012 projected impact of coal mining. 
Fugitive emissions projections

Australia’s emissions projections 2014-2015

Department of the Environment, March 2015


“In 2013–14 fugitive emissions from fossil fuels were 41 Mt CO 2 -e. This represented eight per cent of Australia’s total emissions. From 1999–2000 to 2013–14, fugitive emissions grew by 3 Mt CO 2 -e, or seven per cent.
Fugitive emissions arise from the production, processing, storage, transmission and distribution of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The greatest share of fugitive emissions comes from coal mining activities, including a small amount of emissions from decommissioned mines.
Rising export demand for Australia’s energy resources, particularly coal and LNG, is expected to lead to large increases in production volumes and fugitive emissions over the projections period. From 2013–14 to 2034–35, Australian coal production is expected to continue its recent strong rate of increase as global demand, particularly in China and India, increases.” (page 20)

Changes to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory

“The incorporation of new NGERs data has resulted in recalculations throughout the time series for open cut coal mines and fugitive emissions from natural gas transmission sectors.” (page 29)

Changes to the emissions outlook

“Emissions from fugitives are projected to be 25 Mt CO 2 -e lower in 2019–20 than reported in the 2013 Projections. In particular, projections of fugitive emissions from coal mines are lower as a result of three main factors. First, production forecasts have been revised downwards since the 2013 Projections, after recent falls in global coal prices caused by surplus supply and relatively weak demand. Second, the projections assume a higher rate of flaring than in the 2013 Projections. Third, more accurate emissions factors have been applied.” (page 29)

Australia’s emissions projections 2015-2016

Department of the Environment, December 2015

This publication has been relabelled "Tracking to 2020: an interim update of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions projections" and further revises downwards fugitive emissions from coal mining.



"Fugitive emissions from coal are projected to be around 9 Mt CO 2 -e lower in 2019–20. Australian coal production, although expected to grow strongly, is projected to be lower than in the 2014–15 projections.

This is due to:
  • world coal supply growing faster than import demand, and coal prices falling as a result; and
  • a number of high cost producers having ceased production." (page 25)

Greg Hunt's approval for the massive new Adani coal mine seems in conflict with the reasons his department has lowered projected fugitive emissions from coal.