Discussion paper

Scientists have warned for decades that increasing greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more extreme bushfire conditions. NSW has been ravaged by unprecedented bushfires and much more is still to come. At the same time, the NSW Government has introduced legislation that seeks to weaken legal protections against increased emissions from NSW’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions: coal mining.

The legislation follows coal industry backlash over three recent independent planning decisions about coal mines in NSW: Rocky Hill, United Wambo and Bylong. While climate change was a small part of these decisions, they each considered more closely than usual the ‘scope 3’ emissions – emissions ‘downstream’ from the mines, when the coal is burned.

The need to consider these emissions is clear when we look at their vast scale. Emissions from NSW coal mining are larger than domestic emissions from the UK or France. NSW coal mining emissions are nearly four times larger than all direct emissions from within NSW itself and nearly as large as all of Australia’s domestic emissions.

The NSW Government has a climate policy that supports the Paris Agreement on climate change and targets net zero emissions by 2050.

This policy is undermined by the proposed legislation and its potential ot facilitate new coal mines. The Paris Agreement sets global goals and encourages actions towards them. Preventing consideration of scope 3 emissions has nothing to do with the letter of the Paris Agreement, and is against its spirit. Moreover, coal mines are highly emissions intensive. Fugitive emissions directly from coal mines make up 10% of NSW’s total emissions, and coal mining also uses a lot of diesel. New coal mines undermine the climate policy and require bigger cuts from other industries.

Key points:

  • NSW coal emissions are bigger than direct emissions from France and the UK, almost as big as Australia’s, and nearly four times bigger than direct emissions from NSW itself.
  • Stopping consideration of downstream emissions contradicts NSW climate policy and the spirit of the Paris Agreement.
  • Despite the NSW Mineral Council’s claims to the contrary, the Independent Planning Committee is legally bound to consider “downstream emissions”.
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