Saturday, October 17, 2015

Coal exports, development and more Australian hypocrisy

The Australian Minister for Resources, Josh Frydenberg, claimed today that Australian exports of coal to India is a "moral imperative" which will improve energy security for the poor in India, and also their health. This is, I'm afraid, either willfully deceptive or just stupidity. Unfortunately, Australian national radio then repeated Frydenberg's claim, without any countering comment.

Frydenberg should read this essay by EAS Sarma, a former secretary of India's ministry of power. Sarma points out that renewables (rapidly expanding in India) make far more sense for Indian development than Australian coal. Coal fired power stations also contribute to air pollution. Frydenberg also seems ignorant of (or indifferent to) the idea that coal exports worsen climate change, and that will also worsen the health of many people in India, starting with the poor, the same group Frydenberg professes to care about. He could also read this essay by Al Gore or this by OxFam.

There are too many other recent examples of Australian hypocrisy, such as claims that the motivation for quasi-concentration camps on Nauru and elsewhere, paid by Australian taxpayers, are humanitarian (allegedly to stop drowning at sea). Does Frydenberg think it is humane and strategically valuable to cut Australian foreign aid, because coal exports have taken their strategic place? I don't think Michael Fullilove would be so sanguine.

I am Professor of Public Health at the University of Canberra, Australia, and co-founder of the NGO BODHI, which has been trying to reduce poverty in India and other countries since 1989. I am also the only Australian IPCC contributor, to date, to have been arrested for protesting Australia's coal frenzy.