Aussie PM rejects calls to curb coal while bushfires rage on
He describes calls for more climate-friendly policies as 'reckless'
SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday rejected calls for what he described as "reckless" and "job-destroying" cuts to the country's coal industry in the face of a deadly climate-fuelled bushfire crisis.
Mr Morrison's conservative government has fiercely defended the lucrative coal industry in Australia, which produces a third of global coal exports and provides work in key swing electoral districts.
"I am not going to write off the jobs of thousands of Australians by walking away from traditional industries," he told the Seven Network, in one of several morning interviews rejecting calls for further action.
"What we won't do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching targets which are being sought," he told Channel 9, responding to calls for climate-friendly policies.
Mr Morrisonsought to limit the political fallout from his much-criticised Hawaiian holiday - taken as bushfires destroyed an area the size of Belgium and unleashed toxic smoke into Australia's major cities.
Conditions eased markedly yesterday, but the authorities said in the last few days almost 200 homes have been damaged by fires in South Australia and New South Wales.
The authorities said little was left of the small town of Balmoral, where 67-year-old artist Steve Harrison told ABC he had been forced to weather the fire from a makeshift kiln.
"I ran to my ute (pick-up truck) but my garden was already on fire, the driveway was on fire, the road was on fire so I couldn't evacuate," he said.
"The day before, I had actually built myself a small kiln down the back - a coffin-size kiln - just big enough for me to crawl inside. I was in there for half an hour while the firestorm went over. It was huge, just glowing orange-red everywhere. Just scary. I was terrified."
Bush fires occur frequently in Australia, but record-low rainfall, record-high temperatures and strong winds have made the situation more combustible, and according to scientists, are influenced by climate change.
Mr Morrison has insisted Australia will meet its 2030 emissions targets.
"I'm going to maintain the course of responsible management, responsibly addressing the changes of climate change and responsibly ensuring that we can grow our economy in what is a very tough climate at the moment," Mr Morrison told the Seven Network.
Australia committed at the 2015 UN climate summit to reduce its emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
However, activists say those targets are not nearly enough to help the world keep global warming to safe levels.
Mr Morrison's government has further been criticised for seeking to achieve its 2030 targets by counting credits under a complicated global accounting method, rather than through new reductions.
Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese pilloried Mr Morrison's "stubbornness" in refusing "to change course".
"Clearly, this is not business-as-usual. But Mr Morrison is not listening," Mr Albanese said.
"People are scared of what is going on around them. And if Mr Morrison thinks that there's nothing to see here, it's because he can't see through the smoke and haze that's been created by these bush fires." - AFP