Latrobe City councillors lashed out at inner-city councils that had declared a climate emergency, as well as climate striking school kids, as part of a response to the City of Sydney’s climate emergency declaration.
Latrobe City is leading a joint statement of commitment with other Australian coal generating councils with three guiding principles that largely focus on economic diversification and low emissions uses of coal.
However, council documents state it was “strategically recommended that the response does not directly address the climate change declaration, given the politically sensitive nature of this matter”.
Cr Dale Harriman said it was “time the alternative voice and some facts” were put out as there was a lot of “misinformation” about coal and its uses.
Councillors pointed to low emissions carbon utilisation technology such as the recently-started brown coal to hydrogen plant at Loy Yang and carbon capture and storage.
Cr Harriman took a swipe at a document signed by 11,000 scientists around the world declaring a climate emergency, out of which 34 names were found to be invalid.
“This is about taking joint action, as councils, we’ve been sitting back and taking a lot of hits on a regular basis from inner-city councils, particularly from Melbourne and Sydney and from a lot of groups making climate emergency claims,” Cr Harriman said.
“As a group, we need to stand up and this council has taken the lead on this. We say there are uses for coal and positives in being a coal industry and there are uses for coal in thermal production.”
Cr Sharon Gibson accused climate groups of “utilising” local school kids to push an “anti-coal message” that did not contain “all the facts” encouraging kids to take time off school to protest.
Cr Gibson was referring to Climate Justice Youth Parliament held at Kernot Hall in August involving 150 students from 11 schools across Gippsland.
“No one is saying there is no climate change, but put the facts out there, you can utilise this key resource we have here,” Cr Gibson said.
“What the hell are we doing here? We need facts out there where proper scientists are putting the information out there so we can make informed decisions.”
Cr Darrell White said it was “unfair” coal was “pigeonholed” for carbon emissions, amid other emissions-heavy industries such as transport and agriculture.
“Climate change has been a feature of our landscape forever and there continues to be an ongoing changing climate, and we as people on this planet have to adapt to it as time goes by,” Cr White said.
“We need to say coal is not on the nose, but an opportunity for the future.”