An independent committee’s decision to reject a bid to use funding intended for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prop up coal-fired power stations has been welcomed by Environmental Justice Australia.
The Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (ERAC) was tasked with reviewing the Federal Government’s Climate Solutions Fund after billionaire Trevor St Baker, the owner of Vales Point coal-fired power station, lobbied to access those funds to increase the capacity and extend the life of the power station.
The Committee considered and dismissed removing the threat of criminal sanctions on coal executives who access the funding inappropriately to ensure all allocated funding goes to projects that legitimately reduce emissions and abate climate change.
Nicola Rivers, Director of Advocacy and Research at Environmental Justice Australia, said:
“This decision is a huge win for common sense and the rule of law and is testament to the vital nature of independent bodies within our governments.
“Using taxpayer funds, particularly those intended to abate climate change, to prop up an ancient and highly polluting coal-fired power stations is absurd and would be a shocking misuse of taxpayer funds.
“Our team at EJA, along with many other organisations, presented arguments to the independent committee who administer the fund as to why this would be unlawful and ludicrous.
“No coal-fired power station should receive funds that will result in extending its life, under the guise of reducing emissions. Upgrades to coal-fired power stations that reduce emissions intensity almost always result in an increase in total emissions, because capacity increases, and so in turn does pollution – and the health and environmental impacts that come with it.
“Using funds from the Climate Solutions Fund for the purpose of replacing essential equipment at coal-fired electricity generators would not just be morally corrupt. It would be unlawful as it offends the Objects of the Act to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and avoid emissions of greenhouse gases in order to meet Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement.
“In addition to the significant damage it would have on our climate, Vales Point power station is expected to cause an additional 547 premature deaths, 433 low-birthweight babies and 709 cases of type 2 diabetes before the expected closure date of 2030.1 Extending the closure date any longer is reckless and irresponsible and would have significant impacts on our health and environment.”