September 12, 2010 / 10:28 PM / 10 years ago

New Australia climate minister backs coal - paper

SYDNEY, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Australia’s new climate change minister, Greg Combet, believes the country’s coal sector has a future under government policies, The Australian newspaper reported on Monday.

Combet, a former union worker, replaced Penny Wong in the post in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s new cabinet announced at the weekend after last month’s election. [ID:nSGE68A003]

Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and the new minister said he would fight for the sector as he pushes a policy agenda to pursue renewable energy, energy efficiency and development of a carbon price for Australia, the paper reported.

“You don’t take the back of the axe to the fundamentals of the Australian economy,” Combet was quoted as saying in an interview with the paper.

There have been industry concerns that Gillard’s Labor Party alliance with the Greens could put more pressure on mining, particularly on polluting coal, but Combet said it was not part of his job to shut down the coal industry.

“I’ve got a responsibility to support those people’s jobs. The coal industry is a very vibrant industry with a strong future,” he told the paper.

“What you’ve got to do is look to how we can achieve in the longer term things like carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power stations.”

Top coal producers in Australia include Macarthur Coal MCC.AX, Centennial Coal CEY.AX and Rio Tinto (RIO.AX). (Reporting by Ed Davies; Editing by Gyles Beckford)

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