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Former UN climate chief urges Australia not to finance $1 bln coal project

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Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has made a rare intervention in Australian politics, urging the Turnbull government not to grant a controversial coal project a near A$1 billion (US$757 million) loan.

In a strongly worded letter to a government agency, Figueres warned approving the concessional loan to Indian billionaire Gautam Adani would seriously damage Australia’s international reputation and could affect progress on the Paris agreement, reports Climate Home.

The agency – the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, known as NAIF – is considering an application for a A$900 million (US$680m) loan to build a railway from the site of the proposed Adani Carmichael mine in rural Queensland to a port on the Great Barrier Reef.

Figueres’ plea follows similar calls from several Pacific leaders, and comes amid signs a concerted campaign is having some success in turning the Australian public against the proposal.

Estimates suggest the mine could produce 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide if fully developed – an average 77 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year for 60 years. The plan is to export the coal to burn in Indian power plants.

Figueres’ letter cites research published in Nature that found 93% of coal in the Pacific region had to stay in the ground to give the globe a 50:50 chance of keeping warming below 2C.

“A decision by the NAIF and the Commonwealth government to financially support the Adani project would further damage Australia’s international reputation as a climate laggard committed to prolonging its high-polluting fossil-fuel-based economy into the 21st century,” she wrote.