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The Government announced on Wednesday a new goal of making carbon emissions net zero by 2050.
Environmentalists immediately pronounced the death of coal.
"Coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, and this legislation means no new coalmines, no new coal-fired boilers for Fonterra -- and a rapid phase out of all coal burning across the country, including at Huntly," Coal Action Network spokeswoman Cindy Baxter said yesterday.
Coalmining is a vital part of the West Coast economy, and critically, coal also powers boilers at schools, hospitals, laundries and the Hokitika dairy factory, where Westland Milk Products said there was currently no affordable alternative.
However, the industry is not writing its own obituary just yet.
Straterra chief executive Chris Baker said yesterday that coal accounted for 5% of emissions, compared to 13% for gas and 28% for liquid fuels.
"The international competitiveness of our dairy sector relies on the cost-effective energy that coal provides. That is the current reality," Mr Baker said.
New Zealand needed coal to guarantee security of supply in the electricity system, "more so now that the Government has banned offshore oil and gas exploration".
"And the demand for coking coal to make steel is strong. Again, this will change as we develop alternative technologies and materials, over decades not years."
In the short to medium-term, there were options for emissions reductions that would not cost jobs, competitiveness and energy security.
"A balanced view is required and there will be no winners if we adopt policies that simply export jobs and emissions," Mr Baker said.
"There is strong demand for West Coast coal and production will meet that demand, from New Zealand and overseas, while it continues."