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Coal mining companies would have to pay just $1.20 per tonne of coal to offset some of their carbon under a Labor policy to meet a United Nations target of net zero emissions by 2050, according to calculations that sharpen the debate over the cost of acting on climate change.

The cost would be a fraction of the market rate for Australian coal when the federal government expects prices to soar to more than $250 per tonne for thermal coal and $400 per tonne for coking coal this year.

Coal miners would have to pay just $1.20 per tonne of coal to offset some of their carbon under a Labor policy.Credit:Bloomberg

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said the cost estimate, based on standard calculations for the carbon emissions in Australia from coal mining, showed the mining industry would face a “pretty modest” cost burden under Labor’s safeguard mechanism to require the gradual cuts to emissions.

“Labor could include coal mining with little financial impact and without compromising the target or proposed policy,” he said.

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