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Josh Frydenberg (Photo: Brookings Institution/flickr/cc) and Matthew Canavan (Photo: Mick Tsikas/AAP)

'Mr. Coal' and a Climate Change Skeptic Given Key Energy Posts in Aussie Cabinet

New Minister of Environment and Energy's views on climate change are "an embarrassing relic from a different era," says Greenpeace

Deirdre Fulton

Australia's post-election Cabinet reshuffle is great news for the fossil fuels sector but portends doom for the environment, according to green groups who are raising alarm about the government's newly appointed ministers dealing with climate change and resources.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was re-elected in the July 2 general election, announced his new cabinet Monday. Among other shifts, Turnbull appointed Josh Frydenberg to oversee a newly expanded Environment and Energy ministry and promoted senator Matt Canavan to Minister for Resources and Northern Australia.

Outgoing Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who has been criticized for "sidestepping" the central role of climate change and heat stress in widespread coral bleaching, will now become Innovation Minister.

The Australian reports:

The Queensland Resources Council said the sector felt like it had won a "trifecta" at the races with appointments of Mr. Frydenberg, Mr. Hunt and, in the resources portfolio, senator Matt Canavan.

"The resources sector requires steady, safe hands to ride through the commodities downturn in the face of a relentless green activist campaign."

But given the ministers' records on climate change and fossil fuels, environmentalists were far less enthusiastic.

New Matilda reports:

Frydenberg has been a major advocate for coal, and has echoed Tony Abbott's belief that the mineral is "good for humanity." In an interview with [conservative political commentator] Andrew Bolt last year, Frydenberg said "I certainly believe in the moral case that Tony Abbott and others have put that our coal, our gas, our energy supplies do lift people out of energy poverty, and that's going to be an important theme of my term in this role."

In the interview Bolt described the Minister as the "new Mr. Coal."

To that end, Greenpeace campaigner Nikola Casule said Frydenberg's views on climate change were "an embarrassing relic from a different era."

"For Malcolm Turnbull to appoint a minister who still believes that there is still a strong moral case for coal even during the worst coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef's history is clear show of contempt for the Australian public," he said.

"For Malcolm Turnbull to appoint a minister who still believes that there is still a strong moral case for coal even during the worst coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef's history is clear show of contempt for the Australian public."
—Nikola Casule, Greenpeace

And ahead of the election, Australia campaigns director Charlie Wood said that Frydenberg had "repeatedly showed himself to be unfit for office. From spruiking the benefits of coal and gas to blocking the price on pollution and saying no to investing in clean energy, he has consistently put the big polluters ahead of the people he was elected to represent."

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports, Canavan "has warned there is still a level of uncertainty about the impact of carbon emissions on global warming and described the Adani Carmichael coalmine as an 'incredibly exciting project' for Australia." 

His view in that regard is not widely shared. In fact, campaigner Moira Williams recently noted that the Adani project "has no money, no social license, is universally hated, will wreck one of the greatest wonders of the natural world and which has been rejected by most of the world's largest banks."

According to DeSmog Blog, Canavan has "also said polar ice was not melting at an 'unnatural rate' meaning this disappearing ice was not evidence of human influence on the climate." In addition, he has been pushing for environmental organizations to have their charitable tax status revoked.

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