27 August 2019

Labor’s Pat Conroy presents a spurious defence of new Australian coal mines: “[Y]ou might say — Australia has a moral responsibility not to export coal. In fact, the moral — and legal — responsibility for the emissions lies with the nation that burns the coal, not the nation that supplies the coal. … To understand the perverse impacts of the scope-3 argument, consider Australia’s transport sector. Motor vehicles emitted 101 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in Australia last year — nearly 19% of our total emissions. Under the scope-3 approach, responsibility for these emissions would be shifted from Australia to Japan, Germany and Thailand because their car manufacturers export the vehicles. Not only is this ridiculous — it would give a leave pass to the Australian government, which is already refusing to tackle transport emissions.” This ‘coal doesn’t cause emissions, people cause emissions’ argument rests on a false dichotomy; it’s not one or the other. It’s entirely fair to apportion blame to both the coal miner and their customer. After all, when we criticise gun manufacturers for marketing and putting weapons into the hands of killers, nobody suggests that we can’t hold murderers responsible, too.