The Hunter Valley is the heart of coal production in NSW, and the backbone of industry in the area. A decision yesterday in the Land and Environment court puts coal mining companies on the back foot when it comes to the planning process, now they need to consider climate change in their proposals. 

The court victory for a 26-year-old environmental activist, Peter Gray, has put another hurdle in the way of Centennial Coal’s giant Anvil Hill coalmine, planned for the Upper Hunter. While the decision, delivered in the Land and Environment court, does not block the mine’s development entirely, Justice Nicola Pain ruled that a crucial step – the director-general of planning’s acceptance of the environmental assessment – was flawed and invalid.

The Government will now have to take account of the greenhouse gas emissions from burning the mine’s output – even though 80 per cent will be exported.

Source: Landmark climate change ruling puts heat on industry – Environment – Specials

Australia’s Political Climate Problem

Every day in the harbor we live beside, coal ships fill their holds up and depart for all parts of the globe, some where climate change isn’t discussed and the realities of green house gases, pollution and global warming are barely filtering into the societies that benefit from the power produced.

We, on the other hand, in Australia, have the knowledge and the means to make a difference in innovative and technology based solutions to this problem which seems to have no hard edges. If we don’t sell coal, someone else will, but our government should act in the interests of the global community and encourage these companies to invest in research of cleaner fuels and other offsetable solutions.

I don’t want to destroy an industry and the people who depend on it for their livelihood, but I do want to see sustainable decisions being made at a corporate and government level.

Who pays for it?

This change to the law is long overdue, if the average home builder is expected to pay an average of AU$15,000 extra to make their home deemed to comply under the NSW sustainability indicator program called BASIX – Building Sustainability Index, (around 5-15% of the cost of the home) why shouldn’t all developments meet similar requirements where the long term impacts of any decisions made can be seen to obviously cause harm to the environment.

BASIX didn’t destroy the housing market, and neither would the introduction of relevant sustainability indicators for all developments put forward by any developer, be it a government corporation or private developer.  The feasibility and workings of this would be difficult, but that’s the role of legislators, this would be a better outcome for the majority of stakeholders than the recently introduced trading trees for development law, which I wrote about here.

Knowledge is power – but only if you employ it.

Disclaimer:  I have no real problem with the companies involved, they are doing what they are allowed to do, and can generally make a decent profit from it. We live in a day and age where governments rule and maintain what is seen to be an appropriate level of social, political, environmental or other conscience on a range of issues. Tough decisions do need to made if climate change is real and isn’t going away. Our governments need to act sooner rather than later, take a bit of political fallout and look beyond the next election for their job satisfaction.

I’d love to hear your views on the role of governments in promoting or legislating environmental and sustainable policy beyond their current term and the next election.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.