THE coal miners' union has hit out at its own industry, calling on the Federal Government to deny coal-fired electricity plants "palliative care" in the form of compensation as it tackles climate change.
Responding to the Government's emissions trading blueprint, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's mining and energy division said there was no evidence that giving energy suppliers compensation would encourage them to cut greenhouse pollution.
If compensation was offered, the union said, it should be conditional on the coal industry investing in clean-energy technology, including capturing carbon dioxide as it was emitted and burying it.
"The CFMEU is not interested in palliative care options for the industries our members work in," the union said in a submission to the Government.
"The research we have seen to date generally does not suggest that such harsh options are either necessary or effective in mitigating global warming."
The CFMEU's position — including starting emissions trading as soon as possible — places it in opposition to the nation's largest blue-collar collection, the Australian Workers Union, which wants the scheme delayed and softened to limit damage to the economy.
Describing emissions trading as "the greatest social and economic restructuring program ever attempted", the CFMEU backs Government adviser Ross Garnaut, saying industries are not usually compensated for losses due to increased environmental or health regulation.
The submission comes as the Government faces intense pressure from big business to revise its emissions trading plan to include more compensation.
Under the blueprint launched in July by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, greenhouse emissions would be capped and the nation's 1000 biggest emitters forced to buy carbon pollution permits.
Compensation would be offered to coal-fired power stations and 20% of permits given away free to heavy polluting industries that compete offshore.
The model infuriated industry groups, notably the Business Council of Australia, which said it would disrupt power supplies and force some industries to shut down.
The mining union said the Government had got it "about right" in helping trade-exposed industries.
But it doubted whether Australia will be able to cut its greenhouse emissions in the short term. "Any reduction by 2020 will be very difficult to achieve given momentum in the economy and the dominance of various technologies in current industry and infrastructure," it said.
The union's warning comes a week after Professor Garnaut attracted criticism for recommending that Australia agree to cut emissions by 10% below 2000 levels by 2020 as part of a global deal.
Advising that Australia play a proportionate part in an international framework, Professor Garnaut said it should argue for a stronger deal under which it would make a 25% cut. But he did not believe that deal was possible in the short term.
Environmental law and policy expert Andrew Macintosh will today release a report accusing Professor Garnaut of a different error: miscalculating the size of emissions cuts needed for Australia to join an international deal.
Mr Macintosh, of the Australian National University, says a global treaty that involved Australia cutting emissions by 10% would lead to even higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide — and much worse climate change — than Professor Garnaut estimated.