Australia Pushes Ahead With Coal Despite Climate Concerns

Australia’s Queensland state threw its support behind plans for the nation’s largest coal project, two days after U.S. President Barack Obama called on the country to step up the fight against climate change.
The state will help fund a 388-kilometer (241-mile) rail line to link Adani Enterprises Ltd. (ADE)’s Carmichael coal project to the port of Abbot Point near the Great Barrier Reef, according to a statement today. Adani is seeking A$3.2 billion ($2.8 billion) from banks and South Korean lenders to help fund the project, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, chief executive officer and country head for the Adani Mining unit, said in an interview.
Adani needs the rail line to develop the A$7.2 billion project and open up a massive new coal province in the Galilee Basin. The company is moving ahead even as coal prices languish and environmental groups say the development and route to market through the Barrier Reef threaten the planet’s largest living structure.
“Australia’s stance is abundantly clear -- the federal government sees its economic future inextricably linked to coal,” Frank Jotzo, director of the center for climate economics and policy at the Australian National University in Canberra, said today by phone. “And we know the state government tends to be very much in favor of mining expansion.”
Obama, in a Nov. 15 speech at the University of Queensland in Brisbane said the Pacific region is among the most vulnerable to the effects of a warming planet. Australia and the U.S. need to “step up” in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change, he said.

Reef Threat

“Here in Australia, it means longer droughts, more wildfires,” according to Obama, who pledged deeper emissions cuts last week in an agreement with China. “The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.”
China and Australia today signed an agreement to cooperate on climate change, Foreign MinisterJulie Bishop said in a statement.
Adani sees the Australian government’s protections for the Barrier Reef as “very robust,” while the “best technology” will be used at Indian power stations to minimize emissions, Janakaraj said.
“While I have great respect for the issues of climate change, and all of us need to be responsible,” alleviating poverty and boosting energy security for India are important as well, he said.
The project could break even at current coal prices, Janakaraj said. The company is targeting financial close in about October 2015, he said.
The price of energy coal from Australia’s Newcastle port, a benchmark for Asia, is down 27 percent this year to $61.85 a ton, the lowest since 2009, according to McCloskey.
Adani, which also today signed an initial accord with the State Bank of India to get as much as $1 billion in financing, expects to start production in 2017.
Queensland plans to invest in rail, port and other infrastructure to support the resources industry in the Galilee, create jobs and boost the economy, Premier Campbell Newman said today in a statement.