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The science of climate change demands action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. BHP Billiton's proposed new open-pit mine at Roxby Downs would blow out SA's greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12 per cent.
Our CO2 pollution would continue to rise right through to 2020.
Open-pit mining is energy intensive, high in demand for electricity and diesel fuels. BHP plans to dig, crush and process more than one million tonnes of rock and ore a day as the world's largest open-pit mine.
Diesel use would rise from 25 million litres a year in the underground operations to more than 370 million litres a year with open-pit mining - with diesel emissions to cause more than a quarter of CO2 pollution from Roxby mine operations.
Roxby would use about 20 per cent of the state's electricity supply by 2020, when the open-pit mine could first reach full production.
BHP is seeking government approval to increase Olympic Dam's greenhouse emissions by at least 4.1 million tonnes a year - a 12.4 per cent rise in SA's greenhouse emissions - and up to as much as 4.7 million tonnes a year.
The company wants to use polluting fossil fuels to generate most of the electricity required and seeks a public subsidy of more than $65 million a year from the Federal Government in diesel fuel rebates through construction and mining operations.
Responsible action to avert dangerous climate change would see us make the transition from polluting fossil fuels to renewable sources of electricity and put an end to diesel subsidies for the mining industry.
SA is starting to take a lead in renewable energy development. In looking to our state's energy future, we would want the state's largest electricity user to have made the switch to renewables and to bring forward the development of solar thermal and geothermal power?
The continued, outdated ``business as usual'' approach to electricity generation threatens to undo all the gains we have made in reduced emissions through more use of clean renewable energy. All of SA's efforts to reduce emissions, to conserve energy, to bring in renewables will be undone by just one company, one project.
The community expects political leadership in this state election. Taking a leadership role on climate change means turning the corner on CO2 pollution and setting a course to realise deep cuts this decade. SA's Greenhouse Strategy, Tackling Climate Change, contains a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent (from 1990 levels) by 2050.
That target is not ambitious enough, as the science calls for an 80 to 90 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. There is no commitment to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Could this omission reflect a desire to support BHP Billiton, whatever the cost?
The Australian Conservation Foundation is calling on all political parties in the state election to commit to a peak and decline of SA's greenhouse pollution levels in the next state government term to 2014 and to commit to a cut of at least 25 per cent by 2020, in accordance with recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for developed countries.
Responsible action on climate change requires we reject BHP's proposed 12 per cent jump in SA's greenhouse gas pollution and for the state government to place a condition on BHP to use renewable energy for full electricity supply to any new open-pit mining at Roxby.
* David Noonan is a campaigner for Australian Conservation Foundation.
A DIRTY SECRET
BHP's proposed new open-pit mine at Roxby Downs will increase SA's total greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12 per cent.
The proposed increase of 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 a year is equivalent to putting one million inefficient cars on the roads, or doubling the CO2 pollution from Adelaide's car fleet.
Every South Australian's efforts to conserve energy and to reduce emissions through increased use of renewable energy may be undone by the increased greenhouse pollution from one mining project.
BHP wants to lock in fossil fuels for the majority of the electricity supply to the mine, rather than make the switch to cleaner renewable energy.
BHP plans to burn more than one million litres of diesel fuel a day and seeks a public subsidy of more than $65 million a year in diesel fuel rebates throughout the six-year construction period for the new mine and ongoing mining operations.