Environment Minister Tanya Pliebersek has backed mining after a “shocking” new report found the industry is contributing to the decline of Australia’s ecosystems.
Ms Plibersek made the announcement at the National Press Club on Tuesday after publicly releasing the 2021 State of the Environment Report.
The latest five-year scientific assessment has shown that widespread and rapid deterioration has pushed some ecosystems to the brink of collapse, blamed on climate change, invasive species, habitat loss, pollution and mining.
Ms. Plibersek did not mention mining or fossil fuels in her speech.
Later, in a Q&A session, Ms Plibersek suggested that Australia could continue to export fossil fuels as long as it meets its “domestic” climate targets.
“Just like, you know, Korea, Japan, Germany… America, which exports cars to the world, is not responsible for the emissions of every car they export,” she said.
“We are responsible for our domestic emissions and therefore we are focused on reducing our domestic emissions.”
Asked if the report inspired her to block all new coal mines, Ms Plibersek said that mining has been “a really important part of Australia’s prosperity for decades.”
“In fact, mining will continue to be an important part of Australia’s prosperity,” she said.
“There are people who say that we should not have mining anywhere. It’s just not an unsustainable or reasonable proposition for a modern economy like Australia’s.”
She will also stick to Labour’s short-term goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Ms Plibersek was asked if the report’s “difficult and contradictory” should inspire the Albanian government to reassess its purpose as climate change activists push for something more ambitious.
Greens leader Adam Bandt also said his party’s support for government climate legislation likely to be needed in the Senate could depend on whether Labor continues to support new fossil fuel projects.
Ms Pliebersek said Labor’s pledge to cut emissions by 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 was a promise to the people of Australia, “and we will keep that promise.”
“I think that any government that, six or seven weeks after the start of its new term of office, starts breaking promises is doomed to trouble,” she said.
“It would be great if we reached the maximum consensus on the goal of reducing carbon emissions and other elements of the legislation that we are submitting to Parliament.
“But we must keep our promise to the Australian people.”
Liberal Senator Holly Hughes said later Tuesday that Ms Plibersek did not support the mining industry.
She stated that the impact of Australia’s climate action on global warming would be negligible.
“Climate change is not an Australian issue, it’s not a regional issue,” an aide to the opposition spokesman for climate change and energy told ABC.
“Our emissions are 1.3%. We can close everything and we won’t change anything, but we don’t see any moves from this Labor government to call China to its lapses, which are increasing.”
Originally published as Environment minister backs mining industry after ‘shocking’ report