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The letter echoed a recent call by the president of Kiribati, one of a number of low-lying Pacific island nations that are under threat from rising sea levels as a result of global warming.
"A global moratorium on new coal mines and coal minne expansions could make Paris COP21 truly historic," said the full-page letter in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper today.
It was signed by former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Bernie Fraser, Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty, Wallabies rugby player David Pocock, religious leaders and environmental advocates, among others.
Australia, the world's largest coal exporter, has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2030, a target criticised by green groups as not enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Centigrade.
The target was set under former prime minister Tony Abbott, who said coal is good for humanity. He has since been replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, who has said he would attend the Paris talks, in contrast to Abbott.
The 61 eminent Australians said plans for Australia to double its coal exports are incompatible with efforts to curb climate change.
They highlighted a mine planned by India's Adani Enterprises in the untapped Galilee Basin in northern Australia, which would export more than 2 billion tonnes of coal over its life, among a range of projects on the drawing board.
"These coal export plans will have severe negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of citizens all over the world," they said.