Coal and poverty

Download the report Powering up Against Poverty


From the tiniest nations of the Pacific to a giant like China, developing countries are demonstrating that reducing poverty and tackling climate change go hand in hand.

More countries are leapfrogging the polluting technologies of the past and harnessing the power of renewable energy. By doing this, they’re meeting the twin goals of increasing energy access and avoiding future emissions.

From India’s plans to install a whopping 100GW of solar energy by 2022 (that’s more than 20 times Australia’s current capacity) to the Marshall Islands’ pledge to achieve zero emissions by mid-century, if not earlier. Through international support and cooperation, developing countries are building the renewable energy economies of the future.

But while the energy revolution gathers pace, the Australian Government remains stuck down the deep, dark coal mine of the past and seemingly oblivious to these changing realities.

Captured by an ailing coal industry and urged on by conservative commentators, our government has delivered a series of bizarre and misleading pronouncements about the future of coal.

Frustrated? So are we! Which is why we’ve decided to set the record straight.

In our new report, Powering up Against Poverty, we comprehensively debunk the former Prime Minister’s now-infamous statement that “coal is good for humanity”. In this report we explore the devastating impacts of coal on communities and reveal how, contrary to industry claims, coal can do little to bring electricity to those still living without it, the majority of whom live in rural areas and beyond the reach of the conventional energy grid.

We also see how local renewable energy sources are reducing poverty and improving lives in some of the world’s poorest countries. And how even for rapidly growing urban populations, the past advantages of coal are diminishing as the cost of renewable energy falls and the harmful effects of coal become more and more evident.

We also look at the dramatic shifts in energy and climate policies around the world. And how, until remedied, Australia’s myopic focus on coal will continue to diminish our own economic prospects while harming many of the world’s poorest communities.

The message is simple: if the Australian Government really cares about reducing poverty and inequality, it must shift its focus from coal and fossil fuels towards supporting renewable energy, both here and abroad.

Australia’s first responsibility is to phase-out coal from our own energy mix. Climate change is already taking a heavy toll on poorer communities around the world – the same people have contributed the very least to global carbon pollution. The failure of rich developed countries to curb their carbon pollution by moving swiftly away from fossil fuels is increasing the risk of disasters like Tropical Cyclone Haiyan and Cyclone Pam, and the recent deadly heatwaves across India and Pakistan.

Changing weather patterns are making it harder for families to grow and buy enough food to eat. Low-lying communities, from Bangladesh to Kiribati, are losing land, homes and livelihoods to rising seas.

But as well as transforming our own economy, as a wealthy developed country we must also do our part to support developing countries with their own renewable energy plans.

Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel recently presented a compelling vision to improve energy access, lower energy costs, reduce inequality and boost prosperity across the African continent. The former UN Secretary General appealed for international cooperation in unlocking Africa’s renewable energy potential. Throughout the Pacific, renewable energy is already liberating many communities from the crippling costs of fossil fuel imports. It is time Australia lent its full support to such initiatives.

Unprecedented pressure is building on Australia to join the global energy revolution and do its part to effectively tackle climate change and eliminate poverty. With phenomenal renewable energy potential and expertise, we have all we need to create a brighter future for Australia and the rest of the world. All that is lacking right now is the political will and foresight.

Take action for a fair climate now. Read the report and join the conversation below.


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The coal-hard facts about coal and poverty:

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