ARRCC writes again to the PM

Dear Prime Minister Albanese                                                        

Thank you for the dedicated way that your Government is approaching the many important issues that have needed urgent attention for so long.

You may remember the multi-faith open letter [1] published in the Australian Financial Review on 13th October 2022. I signed it on behalf of ARRCC, along with over a hundred other leaders of faith and First Nations organisations from across Australia and the Pacific. The letter’s message was supported by hundreds of people of faith who attended thirteen events across Australia and the Pacific.

We are now requesting a reply that addresses the concerns raised. To date, our understanding is that only one signatory (Bruce Henry, the Presiding Clerk of Quakers Australia) has received a reply from your office. It only partially addressed two of the requests made and did not address the other requests at all. 

Since the publication of the open letter our concerns have become even more urgent. 

  • We asked for a halt to federal approvals for new coal and gas mining projects.

In our view it is unethical that Australia profits from exporting products that are causing the climate crisis. 

In the International Energy Agency’s roadmap to limiting warming to 1.5oC, there is no room for new coal and gas mining and the world needs to triple investment in clean energy by 2030. [2] 

Under the Paris Accord, greenhouse gas emissions are counted against the country where fossil fuels are burnt not where it is mined, but this does not absolve Australia of moral culpability in fuelling the climate crisis. It is shameful that we are the third largest exporter of fossil fuels. [3] 

It is likewise sometimes argued that Australian coal burns more cleanly than coal from elsewhere, therefore our exporting coal actually minimises harm to the climate. However, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie revealed on 21st November that coal companies are using fraudulent research to persuade decision-makers of this position. [4] 

  • We asked that the Government stop subsidies for fossil fuel intensive industries.

For too long Australian governments have evaded responsibility by refusing to recognise certain kinds of public support as, in fact, subsidies. ‘Subsidies’ should include diesel fuel rebates, public funds to assist exploration and public funding for railway lines and other infrastructure. 

The Grattan Institute has calculated that your Government could save $4bn p.a. by reducing the fuel tax credits available to heavy vehicles used by mining industries. [5] There are many urgent social needs crying out for  amounts like $4bn, such as social housing, health care, disability services and education.

  •     We asked that the Labor Government fully respect First Nations peoples’ rights to protect Country.

While Australians almost uniformly acknowledge traditional owners of the land now at public gatherings, equally routinely, they show disrespect when it really counts – when traditional owners do not want mining on their Country. We are concerned about the lack of action to Federal support for genuine lands rights. 

  • We asked that Australia re-start contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund. 

Together with demands for a Loss and Damage mechanism, the Green Climate Fund has been a pivotal issue for the G77 + China.  

The added $900 million over a four-year period for Official Development Assistance is welcome, but it is entirely separate from the requirements of justice mentioned in our letter. Our request was for Australia to restart contributions to the much larger multi-lateral UN Green Climate Fund that assists not only the Pacific but all low-income, climate vulnerable countries. 

Australia proportionately has a moral responsibility to offer far more, given our relative wealth, high per capita emissions and the shameful position of being the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels. Objective estimates, eg, by Oxfam, of our true obligation under the Paris Accord come to billions of dollars annually. [6]

  • We asked that your government actively assist extractive industry workers to prosper through jobs in sustainable industries.

We welcome the establishment of the Net Zero Economy Taskforce and your commitment to making Australia a renewable energy superpower.

  • We asked that Australia actively participates in creating and endorses a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

If the world’s fossil fuels reserves were to all be developed, it would result in more than 3.5 million tons of emissions, more than seven times than the world’s carbon budget can allow if we are to stay below 1.5oC. [7]

The call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is gaining momentum. It has been publicly supported by the President of Vanuatu, the President of Timor-Leste, the Climate Minister of New Zealand, the World Health Organisation, the Foreign Minister of Tuvalu, the European Parliament and the Vatican.  

We stated in our open letter that the current level of warming is not safe. Since the letter was sent to you, people have lost their lives in the worst flooding seen in parts of NSW in 70 years. Many residents of flood-affected towns like Forbes and Eugowra are being informed that their insurance companies will no longer offer insurance for floods. [8] 

Most importantly, we urge your Government to take responsibility for not only reducing domestic emissions, but also for the emissions resulting from our exports overseas.  Until this happens, Australia’s position is unethical, inconsistent and works against our nation’s desire to take real action on climate change. 

We look forward to your early reply. 

Yours faithfully 

Thea Ormerod

ARRCC President


[1] https://www.arrcc.org.au/open_letter_climate_justice

[2] https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050

[3] https://www.climatechangenews.com/2022/05/23/australia-excels-at-exporting-the-climate-problem-now-it-can-finally-export-solutions/

[4] https://reneweconomy.com.au/wilkie-calls-out-australia-clean-coal-scam-that-puts-countrys-reputation-at-stake/

[5] https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/fuel-tax-credit-change-would-deliver-4-billion-budget-boost-grattan-20230205-p5chym.html  

[6] https://media.oxfam.org.au/2022/09/australia-funding-just-one-tenth-of-its-global-fair-share-on-climate-report/

[7]  Global Registry of Fossil Fuels 2022

[8] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/there-s-no-easy-solution-calls-for-government-to-intervene-in-flood-insurance-crisis-20221116-p5byw5.html