Australia’s new chief scientist believes the country should work towards zero emission energy generation and must consider nuclear as part of the mix.

But that doesn’t mean the nation will stop exporting coal.

While announcing Alan Finkel’s appointment, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the era of coal exports was not over.

‘It would make not the blindest bit of difference to global emissions,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday, as countries would buy it elsewhere.

An Australian export moratorium could actually increase global emissions, he said, because Australian coal was cleaner than coal in many other countries.

Dr Finkel, who has previously advocated for nuclear power, believes it’s ‘critically’ important to reduce emissions and the best way is via zero emission electricity generation.

Nuclear energy should be considered along with Solar and wind, he said.

‘Nuclear energy is a zero emissions energy,’ he told reporters.

The prime minister warned that nuclear energy was expensive and posed environmental challenges.

‘The way to deal with this is … to say the object is to make sure we have access to all of the energy we need at the cheapest possible price,’ he said.

The energy debate comes after a call from Wallabies backrower David Pocock and 60 other notable Australians to world leaders to heed a Pacific Islands call for a moratorium on new coal mines.

The letter – also backed by former RBA governor Bernie Fraser and Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty – urges leaders to put coal exports on the agenda at the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Paris.

It also backs a call by the Pacific Islands for a moratorium on new coal mines and the expansion of existing ones.

The group note the ‘severe negative impacts’ of projects like the recently-approved Adani mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin which would export more than two billion tonnes of coal over its lifetime.

Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg has previously said there’s a ‘strong moral case’ for pushing ahead with the Adani mine.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will lead a team to low-lying Pacific Island nations next week to discuss the risk of rising sea levels, hoping to put climate change front and centre of public debate in the lead up to the UN summit.

The Australian Conservation Foundation says Australia should become a zero emission economy but doesn’t believe nuclear should be part of the mix.

‘Australia needs an energy mix that is 100 per cent safe,’ chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy told AAP.

AAP

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Australia's new chief scientist believes the country should work towards zero emission energy generation and must consider nuclear as part of the mix. But that doesn't mean the nation will stop exporting coal. While announcing Alan Finkel's appointment, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the era of coal exports was not over. 'It...