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Australia's allies push for faster end to coal

Some of Australia's closest allies are pushing for an end to coal power, in an increase of pressure for richer countries to do more to curb climate change.

While one of our neighbours says it seems only a change of governments will make Australia end its coal obsession.

New Zealand, the UK and Canada are among 20 countries which have signed up to the Global Alliance for Powering Past Coal, a surprise addition to the COP23 UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany on Thursday.

The group hopes to double in size over the next year.

UK's conservative Climate Change Minister Claire Perry said reducing global coal consumption should be an urgent priority for all countries.

“Unabated coal is the dirtiest, most polluting way of generating electricity,” she told the launch.

“The Powering Past Coal Alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed.”

The alliance covers developed and developing countries, including some of Australia's Pacific island neighbours who are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change: COP23 president Fiji, the Marshall Islands, and Niue.

The Marshall Islands labelled coal the biggest barrier to curbing rising temperatures.

At an earlier event, President Hilda Heine said the country was very disappointed in Australia's continued pursuit of coal mining and energy.

“We're neighbours with them; they should be aware of the issues that are facing small island countries,” she said.

“We hope that maybe a new government can come in and change the position of the current government, which is to continue to promote coal.”

Greens MP Adam Bandt said the Turnbull government seemed to be getting Australia caught in a pincer movement and it was "posing an existential threat to many of our neighbours".

He hoped the new alliance would prove coal shouldn't be subject to a culture war.

“You've now got conservative ministers, social democratic ministers and green ministers sitting side by side committing their countries to phasing out coal,” he told AAP in Bonn.

“Each will do it in their own different way but that commitment suggests it's now crossing party lines.

“A door has been opened for the Australian government here."

Asked what Australia thought of the new alliance and whether it had been invited to join, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg cited Bloomberg's 2017 energy outlook predicting coal would remain the bedrock of Asia's power supply, accounting for about a third of electricity in 2040.

The government's new energy policy is expected to lead to coal and gas combined making up nearly two-thirds of Australia's power generation by 2030.

At the moment, coal alone generates about three-quarters of Australian power.

“The Turnbull government's national energy guarantee is technology neutral and will deliver the right mix of thermal and renewable generation to deliver an affordable and reliable energy system as we transition to a lower emissions future,” Frydenberg told AAP.

The new alliance comprises Angola, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UK, plus five Canadian provinces and two US states.


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