COAL21 comes under lobbying scrutiny

The Australian Coal Association’s COAL21 Initiative was established in 2003, with the stated purpose of researching low-emission coal technology and carbon capture storage, which involves trapping CO2 at its emission source and transporting it to a storage location (often underground). However, the organisation is coming under scrutiny after news sources gained access to a recent document, outlining a request for applications to the organisation’s media team, in preparation for a proposed multimedia campaign.

Details of the campaign’s purpose and targeting strategies were provided in the document. The media campaign is focused on “maintaining and enhancing the public standing and reputation of Australia’s coal industry and Australian mining more generally.” To achieve this, COAL21 intends to target two specific demographics: “men aged 18 to 39 and women aged 40 and over”, demographics considered to be “soft converters” or demographics with “limited information about the Australian coal industry” who may be “open to being convinced of its future role.”

Following the release of this document, questions have been raised about COAL21’s position as a research initiative, with detractors beginning to consider the organisation as a lobbying group. The organisation reportedly plans to spend AUD $4.5m on the multimedia campaign, causing sceptics to question whether this money should be allocated to fund carbon capture research, the aim outlined on the group’s website. COAL21 has also been linked to the lobbying group Minerals Council of Australia (MCA). Mark McCallum is both chief executive at COAL21, and general manager of climate and energy at MCA, though the organisations claim to be separate. This claim contrasts reports that the PDF sent to media agencies with COAL21’s logo was created by an assistant to the MCA’s chief executive. The document included a link to the MCA’s YouTube page, to be used as an example of creative media for potential applicants.

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