The Federal Government has admonished the Opposition for some strong comments on the future of the coal industry.

On ABC Radio in Adelaide today, Mark Butler conceded that he thought coal exports should be phased out.

Mr Butler, the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment in the second Rudd Ministry said; “I think everyone agrees that over a period of time – it will be a fairly extended period of time – we’ll move to more renewable energy sources.”

Federal Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane has leapt on the comments, saying “the Labor Party has turned its back on tens of thousands of Australian coal workers and undermined regional communities across the country”, with the comments.

Mr Macfarlane says coal has brought great things for Australia, and should not be so coldly cast aside.

“It’s one thing for the economically-reckless Greens to advocate the end of one of our most significant industries with little thought for the economic costs to Australian jobs, industry and local communities,” Macfarlane said.

“But it’s quite another for the Labor Party to do the same and support the demise of an industry that has upheld our standard of living for decades.

“Australia’s coal industry is world-class. It powers our economy, employs tens of thousands of Australians and ensures Australian industry has a competitive edge through access to affordable electricity.”

The Industry Minister’s vocal support comes in the same week that the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that time is running out for the global practice of burning fossil fuels.

The IPCC’S Synthesis Report (available in PDF form, here) states quite frankly that reducing carbon emissions is crucial if global warming is to be limited to 2°C - a target pinpointed as the threshold of dangerous climate change.

“Science has spoken,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

“There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

Professor Myles Allen from Oxford University, a member of the IPCC report’s writing team, told the BBC: “We can't afford to burn all the fossil fuels we have without dealing with the waste product which is CO2 and without dumping it in the atmosphere.”

“If we can't develop carbon capture we will have to stop using fossil fuels if we want to stop dangerous climate change.”