Plan To Make Export And Burning Of Thermal Coal Illegal In Australia

Australian coal ban

The Australian Greens are to introduce a bill that if passed would make it unlawful to dig, burn or ship thermal coal after 2030.

Greens Deputy Leader and climate and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt MP outlined how the party envisions ending thermal coal exports by 2030 while addressing a conference of the United Firefighters Union in Hobart on Friday.

Mr. Bandt said coal is the next asbestos and it’s time it was regulated as such.

“When coal exports are added to Australia’s domestic emissions, Australia is the sixth highest emitter in the world,” he stated. “Australia’s coal exports produce over 1 billion tonnes of pollution a year, doubling our domestic emissions.”

In his address, Mr. Bandt drew a link between worsening bushfires and climate change – and coal’s contribution to global warming.

The Greens state Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and the second biggest exporter of thermal coal used for power generation. Carbon dioxide emissions aside, burning coal emits dozens of toxic substances and is a major source of fine particulate pollution. Then there’s all the other issues associated with digging up the stuff, shipping it, burning it and dealing with the resulting fly-ash after it is burned.

Basically, Australia is a Typhoid Mary of coal and the damage it wreaks.

Tradable Permits For Coal Exports

Mr. Bandt said he will introduce legislation to make it illegal under Commonwealth law to export thermal coal by January 1, 20301, with quotas to gradually reduce exports up until that point.

Under the scheme, the Commonwealth will issue tradable permits equal to the declining quota set out in legislation each year that exporters will be compelled to purchase. In the first year, permits would be purchased from the Clean Energy Regulator at $1 a tonne. In subsequent years, permits will be auctioned, with a floor price of $1.

Funds raised from coal export permits during this phase-out period would be routed to a “Clean Energy Transition Fund” that will support coal communities in making the transition. The fund would also direct investment into Australia’s clean energy industry.

“The time has come for Australia to accept that the time of coal is over. Australia is moving to renewables and so is the rest of the world. There is no future in coal exports,” says Mr. Bandt. “Australia could be a renewable energy superpower, exporting clean, cheap renewable energy instead of coal.”

The bill will also ban new coal mines or expanding existing mines immediately, plus make it an offence to burn coal for power generation after 2030.

Regardless of whether the bill is successful, the writing may be on the wall for coal exports. In recent related news, a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis stated New South Wales coal export volumes have peaked and are now facing a terminal long-term decline; although this is a claim the NSW Minerals Council strongly disputes.


  1. With the exception of limited exemptions relating to research and heritage purposes. What “heritage purposes” means, I have no idea.
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Heritage purposes = steam trains and stuff like that.

  2. Des Scahill says

    I’m not at all sure what the term ‘thermal’ coal used by the Green Party actually means from a Australian legislative point of view, as it seems to either be limited in its scope or alternatively, lacks precision

    One definition of thermal coal I found was: ‘Steam coal, also known as thermal coal, is suitable for electric power production. Steam coal is ground into a fine powder that burns quickly at high heats and is used in power plants to heat water in boilers that run steam turbines. It also may be used to provide space heating for homes and businesses.’
    It seems there are 4 major coal types – anthracite, bituminous , subbituminous, and lignite, and … there seem to be are a few other ‘coal related’ substances around as well. for example, peat.

    In the past lignite coal was used mainly by power stations, because being ‘softer’ it could more easily be ground into a powder before burning, and more heat energy would be produced.

    There is as well ‘Coking coal, also known as metallurgical coal, used in the steel making industry. which differs again from other types of coal because of slightly different physical properties.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Des

      Thermal coal refers to any coal used for electricity generation. It also refers to coal used for heating buildings or for industrial heat, although not a great deal gets used for that these days. The other type is metallurgical coal or coking coal that is hard, low ash coal that is used iron smelting.

  3. Making it illegal is one way to achieve an ultimate aim.

    Personally, I would like to see it happen another way – via the market. The cost of renewables and storage will continue to drop as technology improves and as economies of scale take hold. Eventually – and this will happen sooner than I ever previously thought – the relative cost of coal will be so much higher that the choice becomes a no-brainer every single time, on economic merits alone.

    The reason I want it to happen this way is not because I believe that the market will solve everything. It is because many of the people who do believe this also thought that this would make coal the answer for decades or centuries to come.

  4. As Scott said – push the market levers and coal will disappear from the mix – not as quickly as 2030 but possibly as early as 2040. But instead of encouraging and supporting other means of power generation – instead come up with a plan that is both unworkable and at the same time makes you look crazy and there you have it – the Greens grand new “policy”. I want to support the Greens but this kind of sledgehammer “legislation” is really just to get a headline. It has zero chance of succeeding and will not win them a single vote. If they’d promised Australians cheaper power through renewables – now that’s a vote winner.

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