Our Work Air Pollution Doctors group applauds sensible comments on coal closure

Doctors group applauds sensible comments on coal closure

It is of great importance that NSW phases out electricity generation from coal this decade, so we are relieved to hear the NSW Energy and Environment Minister Hon Matt Kean supporting this option.

At last we have a politician with a vision for the future.

“I’m tired of hearing politicians say that if you shut down coal overnight the lights would go out. Transforming the grid to be free of coal is achievable by 2030 and would give reliable, emissions free electricity,” says Dr John Van Der Kallen, National chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia. “A transition away from coal would give us immediate health benefits.”

Dr Ben Ewald, convenor of the DEA air pollution group said:  “Coal fired electricity is a health problem because it creates air pollution which causes heart disease, lung disease and harms babies during pregnancy. Burning coal also contributes to climate change, leading to deaths during heatwaves, bushfires and droughts.”  To quote the prestigious Lancet medical journal this week: “The science is unequivocal. A global increase of 1.5 degrees above the pre industrial average risks catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.”

Dr Kim Loo, NSW chair of DEA said, “As we head into another summer I’m worried about the health of my elderly patients during heat waves where I work in Western Sydney. When the temperature hits 45 degrees people die. Its urgent to slow global heating, and the rapid phase out of coal burning is the most important first step”

Despite rhetoric from Prime Minister Morrison, Australia is not hitting emission reduction targets. The greenhouse gas inventory shows a one off windfall from land use changes and the COVID pandemic. The latest data shows that Australia’s emissions are again increasing. Our gains from renewable energy have been lost to increases in emissions from gas processing and the transport sector.

Australia has no credible emissions reduction policy for these sectors. Internationally Australia is becoming embarrassing which was highlighted by the recent UN report which rated Australia last out of 170 countries for its actions on climate.  Australia will not meet the 26% reduction by 2030 and 26% is not nearly ambitious enough to solve the climate problem. 

NSW has five coal fired power stations so a firm plan to shut one every two years would give certainty to the proponents of replacement generation. Analysis of air pollution distribution will inform closure of the most deadly ones first. South Australia has already ditched coal generation, the UK will in 2024, and NSW can too. It’s a big job but its urgent. DEA congratulates Hon Matt Kean for his leadership, his understanding of the science, and taking NSW in the right direction.