SIXTY-ONE prominent Australians including Wallabies star David Pocock, a trio of former Australians of the year and eminent scientists and economists have pressed the newly turned 61-year-old Malcolm Turnbull to stop any new coal mines and to put an international moratorium on coal on the agenda of the forthcoming Paris climate talks.
The push represents the new front in the climate change wars, with the high-powered group arguing Australia's relatively small domestic share of global greenhouse emissions obscures the vast environmental damage of burning Australian coal in places such as China and India.
Backed by green and social action organisations, the 61 eminent persons have signed an open letter featured in full-page advertisements in Fairfax Media newspapers, calling on the host of the December talks, French President Francois Hollande, and Mr Turnbull to oppose new coal developments - including the Carmichael mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin.
?The Paris climate change meeting is the largest global gathering on the environment since the Copenhagen summit in 2009, which ended in widespread disappointment.
The signatories, which include erstwhile Australians of the year Professors Fiona Stanley, Peter Doherty and Tim Flannery as well as one time Reserve Bank Governor Bernie Fraser, current Wallabies flanker Pocock and Anglican churchman Bishop George Browning, have called on Mr Turnbull and other world leaders to recognise that it is not just the fossil fuels a country burns for its own energy that matters, but those dug up for export to others.
"We, the undersigned, urge you to put coal exports on the agenda at the 2015 Paris COP21 climate summit and to help the world's governments negotiate a global moratorium on new coal mines and coal mine expansions, as called for by President Anote Tong of the Republic of Kiribati, and Pacific Island nations," the 61 say.
The low-lying Pacific Island country of Kiribati is one of many micro-nations in danger of serious damage and even inundation from rising sea levels caused by melting polar ice and increasingly turbulent global weather.
"Australia has a larger share of the seaborne coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the world oil market," the open letter states.
"While world leaders discuss emission reduction targets, a small number of countries with large coal reserves, including Australia, are planning to massively expand their coal exports. These plans are incompatible with the world's objective of limiting global warming below dangerous levels."
It notes that Australia has a "larger share of the seaborne coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the world oil market".
"Over the next 10 years Australia plans to double its coal exports. If it goes ahead, the Carmichael mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin would export more than 2 billion tonnes of coal over its lifetime. And that's just one mine. Australia has dozens of coal projects on the drawing board."
Just weeks before his leadership collapsed, Tony Abbott unveiled Australia's post-2020 emissions reduction targets pitching on the low side of hopes with cuts of 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels, by 2030.
This, along with his much criticised "Direct Action" program which uses a tax-payer furnished emissions reduction fund to pay companies to lower their emissions, constituted the main elements of the Coalition government's climate change response.
Labor, which is yet to announce its full policy, has slammed Direct Action as a fig leaf for inaction. Leader Bill Shorten plans to travel to Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the Marshall Islands from Sunday of next week to highlight the real dangers of climate change - especially for some of the world's poorest nations.
In a clear sop to climate sceptics in his party room, Mr Turnbull has insisted that nothing in Australia's suite of policies will change. But he has also indicated that he will now attend the Paris talks, fuelling hopes that he wants to lift the pace of action and achieves a more urgent response.