Climate change is intensifying, but along with the repeal of the carbon tax, the price of coal has dropped – making it more appealing as an energy source. What lies ahead … for Australia and the world?

The Australian economy is largely propped up by coal, but is the end in sight? Is China, for instance, as reliant on Australian coal as we’re led to believe? And while many in the industry accept the science around climate change, what are the viable alternatives of energy supply to developing countries – is coal the only affordable option for those striving to escape poverty and destitution?

Renewable energy has not yet been developed at a rate (and for a price) that makes it a viable large-scale substitute for coal. Which begs the question: is our whole model flawed? The future of energy distribution could be local rather than centralised, with rooftops, co-generation plants and other small-scale technologies playing a vital role – avoiding the need for large systems of infrastructure for distribution.

Looking beyond the nuts and bolts of technology, what is the impact on communities of moving away from coal? Are we indifferent to the eclipse of the long history of coal mining? And what will happen to the communities that were once defined by it?

This debate was moderated by Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams.

Speaking for the proposition

· Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Greens
· Professor Mike Sandiford, director Melbourne Energy Institute
· Lane Crockett, Executive General Manager, Pacific Hydro

Speaking against the proposition

· Dr Richard Aldous, CEO CO2CRC
· Dr Nikki Williams, former head of the Australian Coal Association
· Sinclair Davidson, professor of institutional economics at the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing RMIT, and senior fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs


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