Australia is set to build a new coal mine, unnerving some parents who are concerned about their family's future as the weather becomes more erratic due to pollution.
The Isaac River mine in Queensland could create up to 7 million tonnes of emissions, and it's the first coal project to be approved by the Albanese government. Its approval has been slammed by climate scientists. “There’s no room for new coal, oil and gas if we're to avoid a full-blown climate catastrophe,” the Climate Council said. But the company behind the project argues its coal is essential to create steel, a metal essential to the renewables transition.
Amid the growing debate, mums playing with their kids outside in the sun today said they fear how their kids will be impacted by climate change, and expressed concern about the coal project.
Three Sydney mums chat about their kids and climate change
Yahoo News Australia headed down to Bondi Beach on Friday, to hear from three mums about their thoughts on climate change and whether they think the country needs more coal mines.
Jennifer was sitting by the skatepark while her daughter rode her bike when we sat down for a chat. The young mum is only five weeks away from having her second child and was “disappointed” by Labor’s mine announcement. “We need less coal mines, it’s the dirtiest form of energy,” she said.
“The weather is obviously changing a lot… and obviously there’s human impact. (I’m) fearful for my kids and obviously what life’s going to be like for them, and the animals,” she added.
Two other parents enjoying the sunshine nearby said they were not in favour of the mine.
Siannon was trying to wrangle her three kids back home and only had a moment to talk, so her response to the mine was blunt. “They’re always doing that stuff, aren’t they. We definitely don’t need more coal,” she said.
Mother of two Kristin has two adult children aged 27 and 23 who she said are consumed with fear about climate change “all the time". Despite this, she feels powerless to do anything about the issue. “We’ve got a KeepCup, we recycle, what else can we do? It just feels a bit useless being one person,” she said.
What do I need to know about the new coal mine?
The Isaac River mine will be built in Queenslands Bowen Basin.
Bowen Coking Coal is the Queensland-based ASX-listed company behind the mine.
It’s less than 1 per cent the size of Adani’s Carmichael coal project.
The mine will produce around 500,000 tonnes of coal a year for steel manufacturing.
It will create around 200 jobs and run for five years.
Bowen Coking Coal says renewables transition will require more mining
While new mine announcements frequently draw negative reactions, Bowen Coking Coal executive chairman Nick Jorss believes there's more to the story. He notes a "key point" to understand about the project is that the company is digging for metallurgical coal which is used to create steel. "It's perhaps not well known but we need more steel, not less," he told Yahoo.
He added that electric vehicles and solar panels require a large amount of mined materials. "The faster we transition and bigger the mining boom we need," he said.
Having lived in Bondi, Mr Jorss was not surprised by the negative response to the mine, and thought parents in Mackay or Moranbah would think differently about it. "The industry's got a bit of work to do educating people on what we're doing and why we're important," he said.
What’s the concern about coal mines?
After unprecedented flooding, bushfires and drought, Labor rose to power amid a wave of concern about the climate crisis. Bondi is in Wentworth, a Liberal stronghold that turned on its elected member and voted in an Independent Climate 200 member at the last federal election.
Dr Simon Bradshaw from the Climate Council said Australians are living through an “age of consequences from past inaction” to tackle rising fossil fuel emissions, with the cost of extreme weather disasters doubling since the 1970s.
“This is no longer a future threat, but in lived reality for many Australians,” he said. “It's the scale and pace at which we reduce emissions now and through the 2020s that’s going to be so consequential in limiting future harms.”
Impacts being felt right now include higher home insurance premiums due to the risk of extreme weather, and increased health issues from pollutants like bushfire smoke. If significant cuts haven’t been made by 2030, then Australian families will be living in conditions that are hard to adapt to.
“There’ll be far more severe heat extremes, accelerated sea level rises, worsening fire seasons, worsening floods,” Dr Bradshaw said. “Decisions to approve new fossil fuel projects really flies in the face of the science and is only creating greater risks.”
But isn't the mine only small?
Since coming to power, climate scientists have praised the federal government for its emissions reduction efforts, particularly its stronger emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030. But its decision not to stand in the way of the Isaac River mine has caused concern among climate experts.
While the mine is relatively small, Rod Campbell from the left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute remains concerned. “If an environment minister can’t knock back a small mine proposed by a small mining company, how on earth is she going to knock back one proposed by a large and powerful company?,” he said.
Is this the only mine the government is approving?
Australia’s government appears set to approve more fossil fuel projects despite repeated warnings from the United Nations if nations like Australia don’t end their “deadly addiction to coal” and cancel all projects in the pipeline.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has indicated she won’t stand in the way of three other coal and gas projects proposed for NSW and Queensland. They had been opposed by Environmental Justice Australia, but the government believes it can't stand in the way of individual projects unless they will substantially cause climate change to impact matters of national environmental significance.
A spokesperson for Minister Plibersek said all projects will be considered on a “case-by-case basis”.
“The Albanese Government has to make decisions in accordance with the facts and the national environment law – that’s what happens on every project, and that’s what’s happened here,” they said in a statement.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.