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The coal industry and regulatory action in Australia

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World Coal,

Aleksandra Tomczak, World Coal Association, discusses how regulatory developments will shape the coal industry in Australia.

Policy expectations for 2014 in Australia center on the promises made by the Liberal National Coalition during last year’s general elections. The new government’s plan – and one of the main points of last year’s election manifesto – Is to repeal several flagship policies of the previous government, including the carbon tax and the mineral resource rent tax. The repeal is expected to take place as soon as the new Senate takes office in July 2014. Although the results of the Senate vote on carbon tax cannot be guaranteed, the CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), Brendan Pearson, believes it is most likely that the Tony Abbott government will succeed in gathering the necessary support from the independents.

A clear priority for the new government has been to replace the carbon tax by an Emissions Reduction Fund, which will be based on tenders for projects designed to reduce carbon emissions: “This new approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a step in the right direction, introducing an incentive based approach, as opposed to a punitive approach introduced by the carbon tax legislation,” says Pearson.

The Abbott government is also currently reviewing Australia’s energy policy. The Department of Industry is expected to publish an Energy White Paper in September. As part of the energy review, the Australian government is likely to propose a mechanism for streamlining environmental approvals at the federal and state level. The MCA is hopeful that this proposal will address the problem of delays in obtaining environmental approvals – a problem which increases the costs for coal in Australia.

Also under review is the renewable energy target that binds Australia to a 20% share for renewables by 2020. The Australian government is considering postponing the target to 2025, with a decision on this issue most likely to occur in the first half of 2014.

This is an edited extract of an article that first appeared as TOMCZAK, A., “What to watch in 2014: Policy developments that will shape the coal industry”, Cornerstone (Spring 2014), pp. 19 – 25. Cornerstone is the official journal of the World Coal Association.

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