UN climate official urges Australia to phase out coal industry

The UN’s Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action Selwin Hart has called for Australia to abandon its coal mining business and to increase its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target.

During a speech recorded for an Australian National University leadership forum, Hart said wealthy nations must stop using coal power by 2030, along with the rest of the world by 2040 if the world is to keep global warming to within the agreed target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Market forces alone show coal’s days are numbered, as many investors increasingly abandon it in favour of renewables, which are now cheaper in most places,” he said. “We fully understand the role that coal and other fossil fuels have played in Australia’s economy, even if mining accounts for a small fraction – around 2% – of overall jobs.

“But it’s essential to have a broader, more honest and rational conversation about what is in Australia’s interests because the bottom line is clear. If the world does not rapidly phase out coal, climate change will wreak havoc right across the Australian economy: from agriculture to tourism, and right across the services sector.”

Hart also urged Australia to increase its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target from 26% to 28%, saying collectively the world must reduce emissions by 45% by the end of the decade to meet the overall goal of the Paris Agreement.

And he called on Australia to adopt a net zero target by 2050, noting that all Australian states and territories had already done so, as well as Australia’s island nation neighbours, along with nations representing 73% of the world’s economy.