Turnbull dismisses call to ban all new coal mines

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has outright rejected the possibility of banning new coal mines in Australia, despite growing calls for a moratorium.

Asked on Tuesday about the moratorium proposed in a letter signed by 61 prominent Australian scientists and celebrities, Mr Turnbull said such action would not make "the blindest bit of difference to global emissions".

Among the signatories were star Wallaby David Pocock, former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser and professors Tim Flannery and Fiona Stanley.

But Mr Turnbull said irrespective of whether Australia stopped exporting coal, the countries buying it would simply do so from other sources.

While renewable energy needed to be a key electricity provider in the future, Mr Turnbull said, coal was a "critical ingredient" in alleviating poverty overseas.

However, Mr Turnbull also said those suffering from energy poverty often did not have access to the electricity grid and "solar energy" was often a better option.

Mr Turnbull made the comments after announcing the appointment of the new Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

Mr Finkel, who takes up the role later this year, said he wanted a future free of coal and gas, but it would not happen "overnight".

He said the best way to get rid of coal was to provide viable alternatives, and the battery storage of electricity was a key part of making renewable energy a real alternative to coal.