The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) have published online written correspondence with the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) about their full page ad and open letter publicised during the recent G20 meeting in Brisbane. A letter from the MCA to ARRCC on November 12 prompted this exchange.

“We are a diverse group from a number of different religious traditions in Australia. As leaders in our faith communities, we feel strongly compelled to highlight in our letter the vital issues concerning climate change, “ ARRCC’s response to the MCA states.

It continues: “We firmly believe that there is a moral imperative to act urgently to address climate change, including transitioning rapidly away from fossil fuels and into renewable sources of energy.”

“We told the MCA that whatever the current contributions claimed to be made to the Australian economy by the minerals and energy sector, research by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the International Energy Agency shows humanity has a constrained “carbon budget” within which to work,” Thea Ormerod, President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) said.

“The science is clear, we must leave around 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to avoid even the internationally agreed limit of two degrees of global warming,” she said.

ARRCC’s letter states: “We are left with a collective moral challenge. It means that those who have been benefitting most from the use of fossil fuels must make necessary but difficult changes, particularly in diversifying the sources of our energy and in energy efficiency. We suggest that these changes need not harm our economies. Indeed, it will harm our economies in the long-term if we do not make the changes. “

“We tried to tell them directly that we understand that interest groups such as the MCA and others representing fossil fuel interests work to present information to the benefit of their members but a broad coalition of faith leaders from right across Australia, and indeed the world, clearly see that it is necessary to consider the broader interests of all human and animal life, both today and into the future,” Ms Ormerod said.

The ARRCC response letter to the MCA says, “(the MCA’s) claims that mining contributes to ‘vibrant communities throughout Australia’ seems to overlook the destructive impacts of mining in many, many parts of Australia. These are outlined to the MCA in detail. Subsidies for the fossil fuel industry operate as perverse incentives to destroy the biosphere. The MCA continues to insist that the Australian energy production sector does not receive subsidies.”

“This is simply not true. In addition to well-known Federal government subsides such as fuel rebates and reduced tax payments, the sector also receives significant assistance from State governments including direct cash payments, assistance programs and provision of capital assets,” Ms Ormerod said.

The day after the G20 Leaders’ Summit, the Queensland government announced it would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a rail line to a proposed coalmine in the Galilee Basin. This is just the latest in billions received by Australia’s minerals and fossil fuel industries from State and Federal governments. Recent analysis by the Australia Institute shows $18 billion over 6 years from State government. Other analysis suggests that $4.5 billion last year alone came from the Federal government.

Queensland Treasury itself notes that: Governments face budget constraints and spending on mining related infrastructure means less infrastructure spending in other areas, including social infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. For many projects directly related to assisting mining industry development, such as land acquisitions for state development areas, the expected timeframes for cost recovery are extremely long (sometimes decades). The opportunity cost of this use of limited funds is a real cost to government and the community.

On subsidies, WA Treasury similarly says: State expenditures [that] support resource development, particularly provision of infrastructure (including both multi-user/economic and social infrastructure) …This incurs a significant subsidy cost, reflecting the opportunity cost of ‘in-advance’ provision.

Those who signed the letter from across religious groups and faiths believe climate change is the most pressing issue of our time and as leaders in faith communities, must respond in the face of ecological destruction and worsening social injustice as a result of the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

“Our Open Letter was a call to all Australians on the matter of climate change and a plea to the wealthy and powerful to exercise their moral will and actively promote the transition to renewable energy,” Ms Ormerod said.

“Therefore we believe, our exchange with the MCA (which was instigated by them) should be seen by the Australian people and the small and large investors in the companies the MCA represents,” she said.

The MCA’s letter (Nov 12): http://www.arrcc.org.au/images/stories/arrcc-news/mca%20response%20to%20multi-faith%20open%20letter%2012%20nov%202014_arrcc.pdf

ARRCC’s response (Nov 26): http://www.arrcc.org.au/minerals-council-correspondence#sthash.d4FjjGcy.dpuf

Media contact: Thea Ormerod chair@arrcc.org.au ; +61(0)405 293 466