Timing the launch of the campaign ahead of BHP Billiton's impending annual general meeting, the union said currently about 20 cents per tonne is invested in clean coal - a contribution that it believes is simply not enough to make the technology economically viable.
CFMEU national president Tony Maher said the dollar levy would force big mining companies to contribute more towards the future of the coal industry.
"We can take one step forward by ratifying Kyoto, but the industry must not take two steps back by failing to look at ways in which we can reduce the emissions from coal," Maher said.
"There is no future for the coal industry unless we solve the CO2 emissions problem. It's a pretty poor effort that BHP Billiton currently spends little more on clean coal research than it pays its top 10 managers.
"Committing to a one dollar per tonne levy for the Coal 21 program at today's AGM would a great step for BHP Billiton. We want BHP Billiton to be part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem."
Maher said polling conducted for the CFMEU by Essential Research found 76% of Australians would support the one dollar levy - which would create a research fund of $5 billion over the next decade.