NEWS AU

Now is time to talk climate change: expert

An environmental expert says fires likely driven by climate change could wreak havoc on coal regions in coming days as the NSW government pushes controversial legislation to make mine approvals less onerous.

Parliament is this week expected to debate a bill aimed at removing the need for planning authorities to consider overseas emissions when examining local mining projects.

The Berejiklian government introduced the draft laws after the Independent Planning Commission in August imposed overseas emissions conditions on its approval of a coal project near Singleton and the environment court in 2018 rejected the nearby Rocky Hill mine.

University of Wollongong bushfire management expert Professor Ross Bradstock says the state’s coal mining regions are vulnerable to fires likely driven by climate change.

“We are facing really hard questions about mining and burning fossil fuels – we need to look at transition,” he told AAP on Monday.

“On a day forecast like tomorrow, if a fire starts and gets into one of those coal mines, it would be a perfect storm.

“Fires possibly being driven by climate change disrupting the industry and setting fire to a coal mine – that’s perhaps when people might start to think carefully about whether we can keep going like this.”

Prof Bradstock said the current bushfire emergency was like 20 years of major fire seasons rolled into one.

“The disastrous 2018 fire in the coastal community of Tathra was a harbinger of things to come, not only now but into the future, as our forests continue to dry under climate change,” he said.

“Many people are saying it’s not just consistent with predictions, it’s arrived sooner than expected.”

Under the proposed legislation, authorities would not be able to take into account emissions generated by NSW coal shipped and burned overseas.

The School Strike 4 Climate group protest is planned outside parliament on Tuesday.

Almost 50 scientists and experts in October signed an open letter urging the state government not to “cave in” to the coal lobby given mines add hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere annually.

But Planning Minister Rob Stokes insists the government is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and the bill simply provides “procedural certainty”.

“Decision-makers are required to consider greenhouse gas emissions when assessing mining proposals, alongside other environmental, economic and social factors,” he said in a statement.

Former NSW Supreme Court justice and former Land and Environment Court judge Paul Stein last week said residents should be alarmed.

“This bill is a dangerous and retrograde step which flies in the face of combating global warming,” he said.

NSW is facing unprecedented bushfires with Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday declaring a week-long state of emergency.


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