CFMEU: Howard must sign Kyoto

November 22, 2006

In a document released on November 25, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) calls on the Australian government to ratify the Kyoto treaty, as part of a strategy to combat climate change.

The CFMEU states that while it has a responsibility to its members, many of whom work in industries that have the greatest impact on carbon emissions, there is a greater responsibility that the union needs to respond to.

At an early morning shift change in the Mandalong Valley mine site, CFMEU president Tony Maher spoke to miners about the need to take climate change seriously and improve the mining industry's record on climate change. "It is time now we came out publicly because our members' job security depends on the industry cleaning up its act", he said.

In a position paper adopted by the CFMEU, the union calls for the mining industry to invest $2 billion in "clean coal" technology, a carbon trading scheme and the adoption of higher targets for renewable energy production.

The discussion paper explicitly rules out any measure that would disadvantage the mining industry, either by imposing a moratorium on new coal mines or introducing "unfair" carbon taxation. It heavily criticises the low level of investment by mining companies in "clean coal" and carbon capture technologies, which amounts to only $300 million. "That represents about 15 cents a tonne", said Maher.

"Now for companies that are making billions of dollars profits — I mean BHP alone made nearly $14 billion profit this year — that's far too small. It needs to be at least a dollar a tonne and we will be campaigning to have that increased."

Rising Tide Newcastle, which is campaigning for a moratorium on new coal mines, has welcomed the CFMEU's announcement but is critical of some of its conclusions. Spokesperson Steve Phillips told Green Left Weekly: "It's good that the union has realised it needs to consider climate change at work. However, we remain critical of some of the solutions that they propose such as 'clean coal' and carbon trading. Both of these 'solutions' fail to actually reduce emissions, which is the primary cause of human-induced climate change."

Issue