by Eugenie Sage
Climate change is our most serious environmental issue, yet the Resource Management Act ignores it when coal mining companies seek permission to dig up millions of tonnes of coal because these companies only do the digging, not the inevitable burning.
This week’s Environment Court decision that coal mining’s contribution to climate change cannot be considered during resource consent processes under the RMA reveals an urgent need for reform.
Bathurst Resources wants to mine over 4 million tonnes of coal on the protected Denniston Plateau, which will produce 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Solid Energy is currently angling for permission to take 4 million tonnes of coal from its proposed Mt. William mine, which will generate a similar amount of carbon dioxide once it is burned.
The fact that the RMA is unable to consider the effects on the climate of pushing at least 22 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere is madness. Mining coal is only once-removed from burning coal and yet our present RMA treats them as unrelated.
The Government has its head down a mineshaft in relation to climate change given this gap in the RMA and also its failure to rein in its SOE, Solid Energy, with its mining plans at Mt William.
A 2004 amendment to the RMA, which we opposed, restricts decision makers to considering only “the effects of climate change” on such activities, not the other way around.
The fact that our legislation that deals with environmental management cannot deal with the most profound environmental issue facing the planet – the changing climate – is nonsensical.