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    WHEN Keith De Lacy was treasurer of Queensland, a certain K. Rudd was the other can-do man in the then state government.
    Now that the Prime Minister has come up in the world, Mr De Lacy has a message for him: the Australian coal industry was sold out in Copenhagen, and Kevin Rudd needs to drastically revise his climate change response.

    These days, Mr De Lacy's main job is with miner Macarthur Coal, which he chairs. His concern after the failure of the summit in Denmark to secure binding international action on global warming is that the Rudd government's decision to persist with emissions trading will do more harm than good to export-exposed industries such as coal. "It (an ETS) will erode our competitive position, while it does absolutely nothing to reduce greenhouse emissions," he told The Australian.

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    "If you replace Australian coal with Canadian coal or South African coal or Indonesian coal, that doesn't do anything for anyone."

    The non-binding Copenhagen deal, which has been on the end of criticism from both Europe and the developing world, was done between the US and the so-called "BASIC" alliance of Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

    It has not been lost on a largely dismayed resource sector that South Africa is one of our principal coal export competitors.

    The failure to achieve binding targets has strengthened the arguments of those who oppose the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and will make it harder to get the scheme through parliament.

    Coal is Australia's biggest export, pulling in $55 billion of combined revenue in coking coal (used to make steel) and thermal coal in the past financial year.

    South Africa is the world's fifth-biggest exporter of thermal coal, and produces about half the volume Australia, the second-biggest after Indonesia, does.

    As well as reducing the competitiveness of Australia's high-quality black thermal coal by raising costs, the industry says an emissions trading scheme could promote the use of the lower-quality thermal coal produced by other exporters such as Indonesia and South Africa.

    Mr De Lacy, who held the purse strings in the Goss government in Queensland in the first half of the 90s while Mr Rudd was its senior bureaucrat, said yesterday Australian coalminers were happy to have an emissions trading scheme if its international competitors were bound by the same rules. "We don't mind paying, consistent with the rest of the world," he said. "Our only concern is moving ahead of our competitors."

    South Africa has pushed hard against emissions caps, not to gain an export advantage but because most of its domestic power comes from coal. It is in the middle of building its biggest coal-fired power plant as it battles an energy crisis that caused nationwide blackouts early this year.

    The South African government said, provided it could get financial support from developed nations, it would agree to limit growth in emissions until some time between 2020 and 2025, followed by a decade of stable emissions and then a decline.
 
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