Politics with Michelle Grattan: Keith Pitt on the climate plan and coal’s future

Originally published on theconversation.com

Resources minister Keith Pitt might have been a “no” when the Nationals debated the government’s climate plan but he was a winner in the deal struck between Scott Morrison and the Coalition’s minor partner. He has been restored to cabinet, just months after Barnaby Joyce relegated him to the outer ministry.

The coal industry faces a bleak future as the world tackles global warming. But Pitt, a forthright voice for coal, is anxious to provide reassurance that the climate plan will not do anything to accelerate its decline.

“We’re not closing the coal sector, we’re not closing the gas sector, we’re not closing offshore oil. We will continue to work on markets that are available.”

He says right now thermal coal is in a “very strong position [..] we’ve got more people involved and employed in thermal coal mining than we’ve had since 2012.

“In the midst of the pandemic, thermal coal was under $50 US spot price – it’s currently over $240 [US].”

“We’ve looked at the International Energy Agency forecast […] they’re saying there’ll be continued increases in demand for thermal coal out to about 2030, and I expect it to drop off peak by about 2050 by around 20 per cent. So there’s still coal-fired power stations being built. There’s still demand. And keep in mind, we have one of the highest quality products in the world. That’s why there’s demand for Australian coal.”

Pitt is coy when pressed on what the Nationals got out of their negotiations with Scott Morrison – apart from his elevation and a commitment to having the Productivity Commission review progress of the plan every five years. “I’m sure we’ll have more to say in coming weeks […] there’s always process.”

On how Nationals members are feeling after the rough ride over the climate plan Pitt says, “this is a democracy at work and in Canberra nearly every decision is difficult […] we’re all knockabout sort of people”.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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