New data suggests Mainland China has been preparing to reduce its coal uptake for at least a year, fuelling speculation the communist country might ban coal imported from Australia.
The latest statistics from the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre show China imported about 47 per cent less coal in October 2020 than the same month in the prior year. This means the country only imported 13.7 million tonnes (Mt) of coal compared to nearly 25.7 Mt in October 2019.
57 per cent market share affected
Australia exported about 57 per cent of China’s thermal coal and more than 40 per cent of its coking coal orders during calendar 2019 according to the centre. However, China Customs delayed several shipments at several ports and many orders were cancelled after customers complained Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials ordered them to stop importing Australian coal.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not openly declare a ban on Australian coal and copper, although it has previously prohibited meat imports from four Australian abattoirs and imposed a new 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley.
The Australian Government is still trying to find answers from CCP officials but this has proven difficult since Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has been unable to speak with Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan for several months due to ongoing diplomatic tensions.
$32B plan announced
The New South Wales Government has responded by announcing a $32 billion Renewable Energy Plan to make it easier for energy producers to transition away from coal to solar, wind and other environmentally friendly power sources.
The plan is promised to generate 12 gigawatts (GW) of electricity, 2 GW of pumped hydro and battery storage and 9000 construction jobs.
Coal workers ‘forgotten’
However, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is concerned this strategy provides no clear employment pathways for affected coal workers or new investment in regional communities that rely on the coal industry to survive.
“In the rush to fund renewables, this [State] Government has forgotten the workers and communities who will be most affected,” CFMEU northern mining and NSW energy president Peter Jordan said in a public statement.
“Without planning and investment, the closure of coal-fired power stations and the coal mines that supply them lead to a loss of steady, well-paying jobs that is devastating to regional communities … we need a plan for supporting these communities with steady, well-paying jobs.”
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Jordan believes renewable energy projects cannot completely substitute coal mines and power stations.
“The government claims this roadmap will create 9000 jobs but most are in construction and only 2800 would be ongoing,” he said.
“I am sceptical about these figures and worried that jobs created will be temporary and low-paid.”
Meanwhile, Federal Shadow Resources Minister Joel Fitzgibbon resigned from his ministerial post because he was concerned the Australian Labor Party was trying to be too ambitious with its carbon emissions reduction target.
“The Labor Party has been spending too much time in recent years talking about issues like climate change … [and] not enough time talking about the needs of our traditional base,” he told the Australian Associated Press.