Turnbull government under pressure to abandon Adani support

Former UN climate chief and convenor of Mission 2020, Christiana Figueres, has written to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) warning that providing a concessional loan to Gautam Adani for the Carmichael mine railway would seriously damage Australia's international reputation and could affect progress on the Paris Agreement.

Figueres’ letter cites research published in Nature that found 93% of coal in the Pacific region had to stay in the ground to give the globe a 50:50 chance of keeping warming below 2C.

“A decision by the NAIF and the Commonwealth government to financially support the Adani project would further damage Australia’s international reputation as a climate laggard committed to prolonging its high-polluting fossil-fuel-based economy into the 21st century,” she wrote.

Ms Figueres said that emissions that would result from burning Carmichael coal in one peak production year would "completely cancel out the total emissions reduction effort Australia has committed to for the 13 years from now until 2030 under the Paris Agreement."

She said support for the mine conflicted with a growing global fossil fuel divestment movement, and a coal phase-out campaign led by Britain and Canada at UN climate talks in Bonn.

In the Pacific, Ms Figueres said it would be seen as “an indifferent and ill-considered move by a country willing to sell off the interests of some of the most vulnerable countries and communities in its backyard”.

Figueres pointed out that NAIF’s enabling legislation sets out why the loan should not go ahead. It requires the agency to not act in a way likely to damage the Australian government’s reputation, and to adopt best practice corporate governance principles on environmental issues.

“Given my background and deep concern for planetary well-being, I cannot in all good conscience, remain silent on an issue that threatens to unpick the progress represented by the Paris Agreement,” she said.

Ms Figueres is also head of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

The Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, has also called on the Federal Government to stop supporting emissions intensive projects like Adani and WestConnex and “make decisions aided by facts and consultation, not ideology and vested interests.”

In an editorial in the Sydney News, Ms Moore cited World Meteorological Organisation reports that have warned of temperature increases well above Paris Agreement targets by the end of this century and sea levels 10 to 20 metres higher than at present.

“This is a global challenge and everyone must act, especially as Australia is one of the world’s main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and when China, India and other nations are fast tracking their switch to renewables, it makes our Federal Government’s inaction all the more depressing.

“Following years of inaction, the recent decision to dump the clean energy target and their enthusiastic support for the Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland – their record is damning and likely destructive.

“Not only is the Federal Government falling behind the rest of the world but also their own cities and states. The ACT Government will achieve zero emissions by 2020, South Australia has one of the highest proportions of renewable energy in the world, Victoria has legislated for a renewable energy target of 40 per cent by 2020, Queensland 50 per cent by 2030, and NSW has even set a zero emissions target for 2050.

"At the City, we’ve taken our own action and our work shows ambitious targets are compatible with strong economic growth.

"In 2007–2008, we committed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our own organisation and the area by 70 per cent, on 2006 levels, by 2030 – and following Paris we committed to net zero emissions by 2050.

"The City’s operations have been carbon neutral since 2007 and we’ve already reduced emissions by 25 per cent meeting our 2016 target. Across the area, greenhouse emissions have been reduced by 17 per cent at a time of strong economic growth."

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