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The Response of the Australian Coal Industry to the Sustainable Development Agenda

Mining and the Community » Mining and the Community

Published: April 09Project Number: C15026

Get ReportAuthor: Chris Moran, Robin Evans | The University of Queensland

Over the last two decades, sustainable development has emerged as the key organising concept to describe how society can balance the objective of improving quality of life while staying within environmental boundaries. There are now an increasing number of reports produced by both global and national industry sectors, which aim to relate their activities to these goals. With these precedents in mind, ACARP Project C15026 has the objective of developing an approach to describe the response of the Australian coal industry to the sustainable development agenda. A key element of the project is to produce a framework that could be used to track how the response has and continues to change over time. Specific objectives outlined in the project proposal are as follows:

· To provide a defensible process for assessing the response to the sustainable development agenda of the Australian coal industry;

· To deliver examples of initial mapping of industry progress using this process.

The project was designed to avoid any significant demands on site operations, already required to submit extensive information to corporate reporting schemes. It was also recognised that any output should not 'compete' with existing reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative. With this in mind, industry input was obtained via an industry workshop and individual interviews, with the rest of the information obtained via desktop research using public domain information.

The coal industry in Australia has attracted significant attention in recent years due to the exponential increase in public debate on climate change. In some quarters, the arguments on the role of the coal industry have been reduced to a 'climate change vs. economy' debate, i.e. contrasting the greenhouse emissions associated with the burning of coal for energy with the economic contribution of the industry both at national and regional levels. An important aspect of any framework is to move beyond this polarisation, and to facilitate a balanced assessment of all aspects of the sustainable development agenda.

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