This week, the Adani Group received the final environmental approval needed to build what would be one of the biggest coal plants in the world in Queensland, Australia. Despite this green signal, the company has decided to freeze investments in the Carmichael mine until global coal prices recover and will still need a mining lease before it proceeds.
Once built, the Carmichael Mine would release 79 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s three times the annual emissions from Delhi and more than countries like Bangladesh, Austria and Malaysia, according to the Australia Institute, an independent think tank.
The Adani group says the coal mine would create 10,000 new jobs, both directly and indirectly related to the mine, and bring millions of dollars to Australia’s economy.
Adani’s commitment to contribute towards providing energy security to India and other Asian countries goes hand-in-hand with its commitment to providing sustainable employment opportunities to local workers and suppliers, not just through our rail infrastructure, but also our longer-term investments in ports and mining.Gautam Adani, Adani Group Chairman, in a press release.
But environmental activists say the mine’s impact on raising global temperatures are too big a risk for the world.
Can the world afford to keep mining coal?
With the looming threat of climate change, governments and energy companies are forced to rethink how and where to get their power. So what would another coal mine mean for the world?
If global warming is limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the maximum temperature increase deemed safe by United Nations experts, then there is very little room left for burning fossil fuels.
At the current rate of global emissions, the world will use up its capacity for burning fossil fuels in less than 25 years, data from Carbon Brief shows. That means that to limit the danger, 88 percent of the world’s coal needs to stay under the ground. Around 35 percent of oil reserves, which pollute less than coal, also need to remain underground.
Saving the Great Barrier Reef
Climate change already poses a substantial threat to the world’s coral reefs, but the placement of the Carmichael Mine would be particularly bad for the Great Barrier Reef, environmentalists say.
A railway line leading from the mine to the eastern coast would deposit coal on the eastern coast, which would then be shipped out on trade routes that pass through the Great Barrier Reef.
“This environmental authority waves through a project that threatens the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which is already suffering from climate change and pollution.”Shani Tager, of Greenpeace Australia, to news.com
Warming waters and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans have lead to a global phenomenon of coral bleaching or deaths. The phenomenon is expected to get worse in the coming decades, potentially wiping out all of the world’s reefs.
Adani received an environmental certificate from the Queensland Government and it will have to meet a 140 environmental conditions set by the Environment Department. Among the conditions, the company will need to ensure the protection of species like the black-throated finch.
The company is also battling two cases against the mine in court and will need to obtain a mining lease before going ahead with the project. But for now, the company has indicated that it will freeze investments in the mine until coal prices increase.