Expert comment: Australian coal banned in China ports prompts transition to renewables

One of China’s biggest port has banned imports of Australian coal at 5 different locations, sending the Aussie dollar crashing to as low as USD 70.86 on Friday.

Dalian Port Group has confirmed it will cap overall coal imports at 12 million tonnes, and is expected to have the biggest impact of coking coal, used as thermal coal to generate electricity, as trying to find a replacement for Australian coking coal will be difficult since its sulphur content is very low.

In 2018, customs data shows China bought 28.26 million tonnes of coking coal from Australia, attributing to the 43.50 million tonnes of the country’s total imports of the fuel.

Five harbours overseen by Dalian Customs – Dalian, Bayuquan, Panjin, Dandong and Beiliang, will not allow Australian coal to clear through customs. Last year these ports handled more than 14 million tonnes of coal, with half coming from Australia.

Unclear reasoning for the ban was provided, but it has been speculated the ban comes amid Huawei cybersecurity tensions between Beijing and Canberra.

Australian Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, commented on China being a valued partner of Australia, and trusts that the free trade agreement will continue to be honoured.

“Australia is, and will continue to be, a reliable supplier of resources around the world,” Mr Birmingham said.

Greens upperhouse MP, Robin Chappel thinks despite there being an economic impact, we need to realise that we’re going to diminish our exports through the aspects of renewable energy as many countries are moving away from coal.

“If there’s not so much demand we should lessen, but also we should be getting out of the business of providing what is one of the most dirtiest fossil fuels for the international market,”

“There is no such thing as clean coal, it is a spin by people who just want to keep the dull dirty industry going,” Mr Chappel commented.

He said the government needs a long term strategic plan to deal with fluctuations in the commodities market, and examine the way in which China controls Australia’s commodity exports and investments in the global market place.

“When it comes to major international countries that deal in commodities, there is always that ability for countries to apply diplomatic political pressure,”

Considering coal is one of Australia’s biggest exports, if the demand is lessened and the use of renewable energies continue to rise, will we have less to offer as a country in the international market?

Mr Chappel commented that most of the renewable energy technology that’s being developed in China was developed here in Australia first, but we didn’t have the fortitude to follow it up, with China now the world leaders in solar renewable energy.

“We’ve got all the sun, we’ve got all the technology, best place is in the world for solar, thermal, geothermal, wind, we should be market leaders…” he said.

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report outlined a future 3 degrees rise in temperature. Mr Chappel explained when you consider the average temperature of the planet is 15 degrees, a 3 degrees rise is very significant.

“That is going to affect everything… Not addressing that coal is one of the biggest and largest contributors to that will be detrimental. The way we’re progressing with the continuous extraction of stored carbon and expelling it into the atmosphere is not boding well for future generations,”

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