Environmental advocates have accused the Queensland government of “blowing” its modest emissions reduction targets after the release of a 30-year plan for the state’s resources sector, which they describe as a severely weakened version of earlier drafts that suits the coal sector.
But while they protested outside the launch of the industry plan on Monday, Queensland miners chose to not to accept their invite, boycotting the event due to the state’s increase in coal royalties.
The state’s resources minister, Scott Stewart, describes the Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan as “a smooth transitional path” for the sector as the state moves towards its commitment of net zero emissions by 2050.
The plan aims to grow and diversify the mining sector to fuel a global push towards decarbonisation by providing the minerals that will build “new economy” technologies, such as the copper, cobalt and graphite used in batteries.
Lock the Gate Alliance’s national coordinator, Carmel Flint, said talking about decarbonising operations was “positive and absolutely necessary”. But in reality, she said the plan had “lost a lot of the detail” about how it that could be achieved since the earlier drafts.
“The big concern is that we’ve gone from some quite specific commitments to much broader, vaguer commitments,” Flint said.
A draft released for consultation in November flagged a requirement on industry to “develop plans to decarbonise operations” by 2023.
“The Queensland government expects the resources industry to develop and implement plans that provide a pathway to net zero emissions operations,” the draft read.
But that reference to net zero was dropped from the final plan and its deadline for delivery pushed out to 2027.
The draft plan also considered giving miners until 2023 to “prepare a greenhouse gas abatement plan to demonstrate how they can move towards net zero emissions”.
Greenhouse gas abatement plans were dropped from the final plan.
The Australian Conservation Foundation and other groups have already described Queensland’s current target for a 30% emissions reduction below 2005 levels by 2030 as “completely untenable” and “way behind” the rest of the country.
Flint said a mining industry plan that does not “deal with climate impacts in a big way” would see those comparatively unambitious targets “blown”.
The Queensland Resources Council and the Queensland Exploration Council helped inform the plan. However, miners are incensed by the government’s decision to increase royalties on record-high coal prices, unveiled in last month’s budget.
Miners have been paying more royalties on each tonne of coal sold for more than $175 since the start of the new financial year on Friday.
QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the specific rise in taxes had not been discussed with miners in advance and that the industry no longer believes the state government supports their sector.
“The Palaszczuk government has hit the resources sector with a massive tax hike that risks jobs and threatens investment in all Queensland commodities, not just coal,” he said.
Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said “no industry or government” could “claim to be surprised by the need to permanently and drastically reduce emissions today” and that ending the reliance on coal, oil and gas was “not a problem that can be punted off into the never never”.
“The sunshine state has immense potential to be a world leader in emissions reductions, bringing huge opportunities to the state but it can’t do that while reversing progress on these issues,” he said.
The department of resources was contacted regarding its industry plan, but questions were referred to the environment department, which did not respond by deadline.
– with AAP