Carbon farming policy fires starting gun for regional WA to benefit from climate action

The Clean State project has welcomed a new policy released by the McGowan Government to allow carbon farming projects on state-owned pastoral leases, calling the initiative a win for regional jobs and a cleaner economy for Western Australia.

WA Minister for Regional Development and Agriculture today confirmed that Pastoral leaseholders covering vast areas of the state would be able to generate carbon credits through ‘Human-Induced Revegetation’.

Clean State spokesperson Maggie Wood said the announcement was a step towards a cleaner economy for WA.

“This is just one example of how regional West Australians can benefit directly from action on climate change.

“The announcement opens up the potential for thousands of jobs to be created in regional areas through carbon farming.

“There is great potential for WA’s biggest polluters to reduce emissions directly, however offsetting emissions here in WA through carbon farming and other projects is likely to play an important role in transitioning our economy and unlocking our Clean state potential.

“We welcome this announcement, which will enable WA projects to supply carbon credits to the Australian market and beyond.

“Pastoralists will now be able to access real income for restoring and revegetating pastoral properties through the Commonwealth Government Emissions Reduction Fund and polluters seeking to offset their emissions directly”.

Action to address WA’s biggest polluters can drive growth in carbon industry

WA’s peak environment and conservation body the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) also responded to the announcement.

“At present, the size and value of the carbon farming industry are limited because there are no requirements for WA’s biggest polluters to reduce and offset their carbon emissions,” said CCWA Director Piers Verstegen.

Last month, Clean State released a landmark report into WA’s biggest polluters, showing that emissions from WA LNG production were rising rapidly in breach of Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.  A separate independent analysis commissioned by Clean State shows that offsetting pollution from WA’s biggest polluters in the LNG industry would create over 4,000 jobs for regional WA.

“Now that this opportunity for carbon farming has been unlocked, its time for the McGowan Government to require WA’s biggest polluters to take action on climate change. This means introducing new rules to cut emissions and contribute to a WA Clean Jobs Fund that would see the carbon farming industry take off on a much larger scale.

“Action on climate change means thousands of new jobs and huge opportunities for Western Australians and this carbon farming announcement brings that potential a big step closer,” said Mr Verstegen.

Experts have released Western Australia’s first Paris-compliant ‘carbon budget’ to the public

The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA)  and the Clean State project have commissioned one of the world’s leading independent climate research institutions to produce the first carbon budget for Western Australia that is compliant with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees temperature rise.

The analysis, by Berlin-based Climate Analytics, will be provided as input to into the McGowan Government’s climate change issues discussion paper. It provides emissions reduction pathways and carbon reduction targets for each sector and the whole WA economy.

Download: A 1.5°C COMPATIBLE CARBON BUDGET FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA – WA’s role in implementing the Paris Agreement and capturing opportunities in a decarbonising global economy

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said the analysis was the first of its kind in WA and provided a roadmap for how Western Australia could comply with the Paris Agreement and meet the McGowan Government’s 2050 emissions reduction targets.

“This analysis shows how each sector of the WA economy can reduce pollution to net-zero by 2050 while staying within a carbon budget that is consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

“At present, WA is the only state in Australia with rapidly rising emissions, breaching Australia’s international obligations due to growth in the LNG industry, however, the McGowan Government has announced an ‘aspirational’ target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“The research we have commissioned from the team at Climate Analytics shows how it is possible to reach that target with a mix of technology and other action to reduce pollution across every sector in our state.

“The carbon budget makes clear is that if one sector (such as LNG) is allowed to continue polluting at current levels or even grow its pollution, then other sectors have less carbon budget available and have to bear the cost of much deeper and faster cuts than they would otherwise have to make.

“When LNG companies like Chevron and Woodside say they should be allowed to keep polluting without limits then they are asking to take more than their fair share of the carbon budget. These companies then must answer the question – which other sectors do they suggest should cut deeper and faster to make up for their pollution?

“The budget sets out interim targets for emissions reduction and supports scientist’s recent call for new legislation to ensure that those targets are being met and reported against.

The analysis shows that at current pollution rates, the carbon budget would be entirely used up within 12 years, however, action to cut pollution now can deliver a range of very significant benefits and economic opportunities for the State, including thousands of new jobs in clean industries.

“This is the sort of analysis that should be commissioned by the McGowan Government but they clearly need some assistance with climate policy so we decided to commission this important work ourselves.

“We are making this carbon budget free for anyone to use, to help all stakeholders understand how Western Australia’s pollution must be reduced, in each sector, and overall.

It will provide an important evidence-based foundation to ensure that policy, investment and other decisions are in line with our international obligations on climate change.

Download the Climate Analytics media release

Western Australia’s Paris Agreement 1.5°C carbon budget is just 12 years of present emissions – report

Download the full report

A 1.5°C COMPATIBLE CARBON BUDGET FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA – WA’s role in implementing the Paris Agreement and capturing opportunities in a decarbonising global economy

WA’s “Runaway Train” – LNG Pollution Crashing Australia’s Carbon Targets

A report released publicly today, reveals WA’s LNG industry is single-handedly cancelling out the entire countries efforts to tackle climate change and carbon pollution.

The report commissioned by the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) and the Clean State project, is the first thorough investigation of greenhouse gas emissions from WA’s LNG industry. Drawing from industry and EPA data, the report provides damning insights into how this industry alone impacts Australia’s ability to meet the Paris Agreement targets signed by Australia in 2015.

The research shows that LNG production is WA’s biggest and fastest growing pollution source, rising from 9% of the state’s total in 2005 to 36% today. Despite efforts across the country to cut pollution, emissions growth from the WA LNG industry is driving up Australia’s national pollution levels. Oil and gas giants including Chevron, Woodside, Shell and BP are responsible. These firms have lobbied to weaken regulation, and today operate with no effective controls on their pollution.

“Both State and Federal Governments have pledged to reduce emissions under the international Paris Agreement but WA LNG pollution is cancelling out the savings that are being made across the country. There is no chance these targets will be met if LNG companies are able to continue polluting without limits or consequences,” said report author and Policy Analyst, Chantal Caruso.

The Morrison Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is intended to cut 375 million tonnes (Mt) of emissions over its entire lifetime, however these savings are cancelled out by the pollution from WA’s five LNG facilities over the next 12 years.

“Australian taxpayers are paying $4.55 billion for the Morrison Government’s climate policy, but this costly program is essentially just subsidising pollution from companies like Woodside and Chevron which is cancelling out all of the gains that are being made” said report author Chantal Caruso.

To address the problem, the WA Environmental Protection Authority has recommended new rules for LNG companies to reduce and offset the climate damage caused by their pollution.

Independent analysis by Reputex Energy has found that offsetting current LNG emissions in WA would create more than 4,000 jobs in the state, in sectors such as forestry, large-scale renewable energy and rangeland regeneration—while improving WA’s natural environment.

“For decades our community has been misled by clever marketing from oil and gas companies that led us to believe that LNG is a ‘clean fuel’ and part of the climate solution, but that simply is a myth.  The reality is that WA LNG production pollutes much more than our coal fired power stations” said Piers Verstegen, Director, Conservation Council of WA.

“At a time when the community are demanding action to address climate change, this research provides clear evidence that reveals our states biggest pollution problem. While all other states’ emissions are falling, WA’s have risen and will continue to rise without action to address this issue by the State government and LNG companies.

“The positive thing is, that if oil and gas giants were required to offset their emissions it would create around 4,000 new jobs – more than entire workforce currently employed at WA’s LNG production facilities.  At a cost of around 2% of profits, for companies that pay little tax and no royalties, this is a tiny impost for the Oil and Gas industry but a huge opportunity for WA communities and businesses to directly benefit from action on climate change.

In an open public forum to be held today, the Clean State project will be presenting the findings of the report.

“The aim is to help increase the community’s understanding of the issues so people can feel empowered about what to do.  I really think many will be shocked at the audacity of these polluters to shirk responsibility for their environmental impacts and the lack of control over this industry by the government.

“It’s time as a community we come together and call on companies like Woodside and Chevron to come to the table with answers, rather than pushing the cost of their pollution onto taxpayers and blocking action on climate change that would create thousands of jobs across the state.”

DOWNLOAD REPORT

Key research findings:

  • 32 million tonnes of annual direct carbon pollution from WA’s five LNG plants is greater than the savings achieved by all renewable energy installed across Australia and is cancelling out the savings of the Morrison Government’s flagship climate change policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund.
  • WA is the only state with rapidly rising emissions, due to uncontrolled pollution from LNG production growth.
  • Currently the WA LNG industry is the biggest driver of Australian emissions growth. This pollution source is already responsible for a 4.7% increase on Australia’s 2005 Paris Agreement baseline.
  • WA LNG pollution has risen from 9% of the state’s total in 2005 to 36% today. This represents a 35% increase on WA’s 2005 baseline under the Paris Agreement.
  • The WA EPA has recommended requirements for LNG companies to offset carbon pollution by investing in tree planting, carbon farming and renewable energy. This would cost around 2% of company operating profits and generate over 4,000 new jobs across WA.
  • There is no evidence to support claims that Australia’s gas exports are reducing emissions overseas. Australia’s gas exports present a major challenge to global action on climate change.

 

Much worse than Adani – Browse and Burrup Hub LNG pollution revealed

Media Release – 10 October 2019

Western Australia’s peak environment group has released new analysis published in the Guardian today revealing the full size and scale of carbon pollution that would result from the Browse Basin and Burrup Hub liquid natural gas (LNG) development led by Woodside.

Key points:

  • Total climate damage from the proposed Browse Basin and Burrup Hub LNG development would be several times the size of the current Adani mine proposal according to a new analysis based on company data.
  • Added together, the various parts of the project would release around 20 million tonnes of carbon pollution here in WA, making the project Australia’s largest polluter.
  • A further 80 million tonnes of carbon pollution (scope 3 emissions) would be released when the exported gas is burned overseas.
  • The Browse Basin and Burrup Hub proposal involves several joint ventures led by Woodside and includes Shell, BP, BHP and Chevron.
  • The project has been separated into at least seven pieces for Environmental assessment, obscuring the overall pollution impact until now.
  • Environmental approvals have not yet been granted for the largest parts of the project, including the Browse Basin gas field and the North West Shelf LNG extension.

Conservation Council Director Piers Verstegen said the overall size and scale of climate damage from the project was shocking and would make the project one of the largest sources of pollution in the world.

“We were absolutely shocked when we added up the full size and scale of the damage that this LNG project would do to the climate.

“We are talking about a level of pollution three to four times that of the current Adani Carmichael mine proposal.

“We knew that the Browse Basin LNG development was the largest and dirtiest gas field to be developed in Australia. When you include the pollution from processing this gas, the other gas fields that would be developed, and from shipping and burning the gas overseas, we have one of the world’s largest potential pollution sources sitting on our doorstep.

“Until now the overall environmental and climate impact has been obscured from Australians because the project has been split up into many pieces, with each assessed individually and at different times by State and Commonwealth agencies.

“Globally, we need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to maintain a habitable climate and that is the target that has been set for WA by the McGowan Government – yet this project would produce up to 100 million tonnes of carbon pollution every year, until 2070.”

A revealing piece by the Guardian Australia published today shows that the Burrup Hub and Browse Basin expansion project would put Australia’s Paris Climate Agreement targets out of reach.

“Pollution from WA’s LNG sector had grown out of control in the past decade, with no effective constraints on pollution from the industry”, said Mr Verstegen.

“In recent years, WA’s gas industry has been the main driver of national pollution growth, in breach of our international obligations. Pollution released here in WA by the gas industry every year is already cancelling out the combined annual savings of every single wind farm and solar panel installed across the entire continent.

“The long lifespan of the Burrup Hub and Browse project also means that the facility will continue to pump pollution into the atmosphere until 2070 – well beyond the deadline for global net-zero emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Seeking environmental approvals for this operation has been a stealth operation by the companies involved and it is time to come clean about the shocking damage it would do to the climate and to our international obligations to tackle climate change.”

EPA consultation process reveals overwhelming support for withdrawn pollution policy

Consultation on the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) paused carbon pollution policy has revealed overwhelming support for the policy to be reinstated and strengthened, according to submissions published on the EPA website yesterday.

The EPA policy, released earlier this year proposed new rules requiring WA’s biggest polluters offset emissions through projects such as tree planting, carbon farming and renewable energy. A campaign by WA’s biggest polluters in the LNG industry spearheaded by Woodside and the West Australian led to the EPA withdrawing the guideline subject to further consultation.

Submissions received by the EPA have now been published online and reveal overwhelming support from the community, scientists, business and the general public for the policy to be reinstated and strengthened.

Almost 7,000 submissions were received, many from expert scientists, industry groups and other organisations concerned about the impacts of climate change and the rapidly rising and uncontrolled pollution from WA’s LNG industry.

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said the submissions process had revealed that the campaign by WA’s biggest polluters did not have the backing of the community, who were overwhelmingly supportive of the EPA’s proposed guideline.

“Very few submissions received by the EPA support the self-serving efforts of WA’s big polluters to block action on climate change and avoid their responsibility to clean up their act.

“Predictably, WA’s biggest polluters in the LNG industry have argued that other sectors of the community and business should bear the cost of their rapidly rising pollution, but the consultation shows that Western Australians are not having a bar of it.

“Action to offset carbon pollution from WA’s biggest polluters as proposed by the EPA would cost a fraction of their record profits yet would deliver over 4,000 new jobs for Western Australians in industries such as tree planting, carbon farming, renewable energy and clean technology.

“Many submissions received by the EPA from business leaders, scientists, experts and community groups called for even stronger action, including the refusal of any new fossil fuel projects on the grounds that such developments pose an unacceptable threat to the climate and the WA environment.

“Clearly there is overwhelming support across the community for sensible action on climate change as proposed by the EPA, which would unlock thousands of new jobs in clean sustainable industries of the future.

“When it comes to policy on climate change and carbon pollution, we call on the EPA to listen to the thousands of community submissions and input from experts, scientists and community groups supporting action on climate change – not the blockers and rent-seekers in WA’s most polluting industries.”

Further Comment:
Piers Verstegen – 0411 557 892

A selection of quotes from submissions supporting the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Guidance Statement 

Western Australian Scientific Community (joint letter signed by 39 of WA’s most respected scientists)

“In line with the science, we believe the new EPA Guidelines on greenhouse gas emissions assessment should include: The requirement of net-zero emissions for all new projects, from commencement. The prevention of new or expanded fossil fuel production. Our view is based on the scientifically robust carbon budget framework. On this basis, most existing fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned. Any new fossil fuel development is incompatible with the goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.”

Ian Dunlop (industry leader and ex Chair of Australian Coal Association)

“The EPA Guidelines are appropriate. However, they are too conservative compared with measures which are now required to avoid potentially catastrophic damage to the WA environment. No approval should be given to any new fossil fuel project, whether coal, oil, gas, using conventional (LNG) or unconventional (fracking), for domestic or export consumption, unless it has proven, safe and secure mechanisms in place from the outset for the long-term sequestration of all carbon emissions produced by that project, encompassing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.”

Uniting Church of WA 

“In WA, the gas industry is already a major contributor to GHG emissions and is key point of concern for the UCWA. “This is a very concerning level of climate impact that we have a moral obligation to mitigate and preferably avoid, and the UCWA urges the EPA to ensure that all fossil fuel projects in WA are addressed under its guidelines.”

The Australia Institute 

“WA LNG projects are pushing up Australia’s emissions. The EPA recommended offsets to stop emissions rising. Contrary to industry claims, FOI documents show the EPA consulted with industry who opposed offsets. Gas companies can afford to buy offsets at very small shares of their profits. They already use internal carbon prices, which they should disclose. A large expansion in gas exports is not consistent with solving climate change. If approved, new projects should offset exported emissions or ensure exported gas is burned under climate policies consistent with Paris Agreement goals.”

Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS)

“People already experiencing poverty and hardship have the fewest protections from climate change impacts and live in the most affected places. The electricity sector has clear access to affordable and deployable low/zero-emissions technology, particularly in the forms of wind and solar. Where offsets are necessary, their delivery within Western Australia should be prioritised.

“Without sufficiently robust guidelines in place, [the polluter pays principle] is less likely to be met and instead places a greater burden on the community to take the necessary action and investment to address climate change, which inevitably sees those who have contributed the least to climate change having to contribute more than they would otherwise on prevention and mitigation. This has serious equity concerns, while also potentially placing greater financial pressure on those already experiencing poverty and hardship.”

Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA)

“Climate change is a key issue for Local Governments that cuts across almost all aspects of operations and responsibilities. WALGA supports the EPA’s proposed guidelines and the EPA’s consideration of the current level of policy commitment at the State and Federal level in formulating the guidelines.”

Reputex Energy

“The use of electricity sector offsets (such as LGCs) can ensure adequate supply of “low cost” offsets for state policy and minimise compliance costs. In minimising reliance on international offsets, policy can maximise local investment and related co-benefits.

“While Australia has a large theoretical availability of offsets, this supply is conditional on the development of a robust source of demand to purchase offsets and unlock new project development in the land sectors.”

RenewWA Alliance (including churches, public health organizations and environmental groups)

“Requiring existing LNG projects to reduce and offset emissions is an essential first step in controlling WA’s emissions growth and delivering new jobs in clean industries. LNG developments must be required to offset all pollution. Gas is a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change. Recent reports have identified that the threat to the climate from LNG expansion is as great, or greater than coal. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has called for a near-term reduction in natural gas production of 15% by 2030 and 43% by 2050 in order to meet the temperature goals established under the Paris Agreement.”

Greenpeace Australia

“To make substantial improvements to our already low emission reduction commitments, efforts must be taken to limit the development of the LNG industry and reduce and offset pollution from existing facilities. Climate science should be the EPA’s central and most significant consideration in the greenhouse Gas Guidelines. “the Earth does not have the capacity to absorb any more fossil fuel burning power stations and keep global heating to within tolerable limits. The EPA must, therefore, advise against the development of additional or expanded fossil fuel production sources. The EPA guidelines should require all projects to achieve net-zero emissions via avoiding, reducing and offsetting pollution.”

Sustainable Energy Now

“The science shows that no new or expanded project that doesn’t fully offset all emissions should be approved. Industry is increasingly including a cost of carbon in investment decisions, and these Guidelines will provide certainty. The planetary carbon budget required to remain below 1.5ºC or 2ºC of warming is being compromised by LNG extraction. WA’s carbon budget is also being compromised by LNG extraction. Fugitive emissions from natural gas extraction make methane equivalent to coal in terms of GHG pollution. An argument about LNG as a transition fuel for ‘baseload’ electricity is not supportable. Renewables, properly regulated, are cheaper, more reliable and better for the environment. There is no scope (globally or locally) to develop new natural gas projects while attempting to reach the Paris COP21 warming targets.”

The Australian Forest Products Association and Forest Industries Federation of WA

“We believe that growing new trees and sustainable forestry activities would yield significant carbon storage, social and environmental benefits in WA and these benefits should be recognised by policymakers (including the EPA) in policy and regulatory reform.”

Josh Wilson, Member for Fremantle

“The state government needs to prioritise a carbon reduction plan. That we do not have one that sets targets for GHG emissions is unthinkable in 2019.”

Environmental Consultants Association

“The ECA supports the consideration of Scope 3 emissions in the assessment as this enables transparency regarding the likely life of project effect on global carbon production.”

Natural Resources Management Western Australia
“Climate change has emerged as the overarching and most urgent threatening process in our regional areas. NRMWA supports the EPA’s continued mitigation hierarchy where an assessment of a proposal seeks firstly to avoid and reduce impacts and as a last resort seeks environmental offsets if significant residual impacts remain.”

Coterra Environmental

“Carbon farming and sequestration in these pastoral areas could have immense benefits to the environment.”

Doctors for the Environment Australia

“A moratorium or ban on new or expansion projects, and replacing these with renewable energy generation, storage and transport innovations, would be consistent with the first and most effective principle of the “mitigation hierarchy” of first avoiding emissions.”

Beeliar Group of Professors

“The State Government’s new policy statement … means that no further growth in emissions should be acceptable.”

Prof Alex Gardner, climate law expert, UWA

“The first step to implementing a carbon budget in WA is to cap our GHGe; i.e. to stop the increase in GHGe.

“The trend of the relative costs of power generation in China show that renewables (solar PV and onshore wind) are already cheaper than natural gas and will be cheaper than coal by 2026.”

WA gas pollution behind Morrison’s embarrassing no-show at NY climate summit

Western Australia’s peak environment and climate groups have called WA’s rising gas pollution an international embarrassment, causing the Prime Minister to avoid the New York climate summit where he would have to explain the cause of Australia’s failing climate policies and rising emissions.

WA Conservation Council Director Piers Verstegen said “Morrison is refusing to face the New York climate summit because he is embarrassed about Western Australia’s gas pollution problem, which is the primary driver of Australia’s rising emissions.

“The reason that the Prime Minister won’t front this important climate summit is that runaway pollution from WA’s LNG production is cancelling out the gains made by Morrison’s inadequate and ineffective climate policies.

“This embarrassment must be shared by the McGowan government. Despite the McGowan Government setting a new ‘aspirational’ net zero emissions target by 2050, Energy Minister Bill Johnston has signalled that pollution from LNG is expected to rise.

“LNG pollution is cancelling all gains made by the Morrison Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund, resulting in Australia’s pollution increasing when it should be decreasing.

“We can get this embarrassing gas pollution problem under control, and at the same time create thousands of new jobs if WA LNG companies like Chevron and Woodside were required to make investments in renewable energy, tree planting and carbon farming.

“Instead, WA’s biggest polluters are dictating policy on climate change to the McGowan government, while their pollution has become an international embarrassment for Australia and WA.

“It is time to take action on climate change and realise Western Australia’s huge clean state potential, which we can be proud of, rather than embarrassed about.”

CSIRO confirms LNG increases pollution; finds no evidence to support gas industry claims

A new CSIRO report is being wrongly used to support industry claims that gas production helps the climate, despite the report failing to find any evidence to support the claims, according to conservation groups.

The gas industry lobby group APPEA has seized upon the industry-funded report, however the report clearly states that the industry’s claims about gas replacing coal “cannot be calculated” because “we do not know the proportion of gas used to displace what would have been produced from coal”.

The report does show that turning gas into LNG significantly increases the overall pollution from gas use, given the additional emissions resulting from compressing, processing, and transporting LNG.

The report also presents hypothetical figures comparing gas emissions to pollution from coal used in Queensland, despite no evidence to demonstrate gas use is replacing coal in the energy mix.

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said that the gas industry was deliberately misrepresenting the results of the CSIRO report in order to support a dangerous and dishonest sales pitch.

“The idea that we can save the climate by burning gas is a dangerous myth, and there is nothing in this CSIRO report that suggests otherwise.

“The world’s most credible authority on climate change, the IPCC, has said that global gas use must decline not increase, in order to meet global emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.”

A major international review released earlier this year found that global LNG expansion presents a threat to the climate that is as big, or bigger than coal expansion, with its authors calling for a global moratorium on LNG expansion.

Mr Verstegen said, “The gas industry claims are based on a fantasy that gas is only and always used to replace coal in the energy mix, however this cannot be verified because it is not true.

“The gas industry can continue repeating this lie, but the CSIRO report should not be used to support a dangerous and dishonest sales pitch for a polluting industry.

“Despite the gas industry funding this report and its reliance on industry-supplied data, the report has presented no evidence to support the fanciful claims that we hear from the fossil fuel industry.

“Using this CSIRO report to support baseless and unsubstantiated claims is a serious misrepresentation of data, which simply undermines trust in the gas industry and the CSIRO.

“The reality is that gas is used in all sorts of ways that do not replace coal, and in many applications is directly competing with renewable energy. Gas use simply adds to the pollution problem that requires urgent global attention. Just like coal, gas needs to be urgently phased out, not expanded.”

Take Action on Climate Change Here

Chevron deliberately delaying carbon storage mechanism, says conservation peak body

The operator of the Gorgon liquified natural gas (LNG) project, Chevron, has deliberately mismanaged the carbon sequestration program it promised in order to get approval for the controversial LNG development, according to the Conservation Council of WA.

IMAGE: Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island CREDIT: Google

The company’s faulty and failing geosequestration program, intended to capture and store underground around 40% of the direct carbon pollution from the LNG plant, has not yet been brought online, despite promises from the gas giant that they were working to fix the many issues plaguing the capture mechanism.

Documents released this week by the Department of Environment and Regulation showed that Chevron has only made an application to operate the facility in May of this year, despite having planned for carbon storage to begin in the first half of 2017, and subsequently being granted an extension by the Environment Minister to early 2019. The program also received $60 million in funding from the Federal Government.

Chevron’s WA operations produce the equivalent pollution of five coal fired power stations every year, making the company the state’s biggest polluter by far.

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said that the geosequestration project has been fundamentally mismanaged from the outset.

“Despite Chevron’s claims that they have been making best endeavours to get geosequestration working for almost two years, they had not, until now, taken even the most basic step in seeking an operating license.

“This is not the kind of oversight that a company the size of Chevron with its team of lawyers would make. It shows that Chevron had no intention to get the plant operating by the required start time, and their claims have been baseless because they had not even taken the first step in the process.

“What all this shows is that the geosequestration project has been fundamentally mishandled from the beginning.

“We are not just talking about technical problems here. The most basic fundamentals of environmental compliance have not been adhered to by Chevron, with the likely result being much longer delays and millions of tonnes of additional carbon pollution from what is already WA’s biggest polluter.

“It is hard to reach any other conclusion than this bungled handling has been deliberate on the part of Chevron, and enabled by a government and regulator unwilling to hold the company to account, despite serious harm to the environment and exposure of workers to pollution.

“According to those conditions, Chevron is required to provide alternative offsets like planting trees or renewable energy if the geosequestration does not work. But instead, the State Government is continuing to allow this company to string us along. It’s not only embarrassing, but it is exposing workers to toxic emissions and costing the state hundreds of jobs for carbon farmers, renewable energy installers, and other workers who could be employed right now offsetting Chevron’s pollution.

“Chevron has claimed its Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects are making the company $32 million dollars per day in clear profits, while the company pays no tax and no royalties for the gas it exports. Offsetting the pollution from these operations by investing in tree planting, renewable energy, and carbon farming would cost the company less than 2% of these profits and deliver thousands of new jobs for West Australians.

“This is the latest sorry chapter in an ongoing delaying exercise by Chevron, aided by a lack of action by the government to make the company comply with its conditions.

“It’s time this embarrassing situation is put to an end. Chevron must immediately provide alternative offsets for its pollution and stop the release of toxic emissions on Barrow Island. If it cannot comply with its conditions, the license for the LNG project should be suspended.”

Have your say on new rules for WA’s biggest polluters here!

Australia’s emissions still rising, driven by WA dirty gas

The Federal Government has today released national greenhouse gas emissions figures that show Australia’s emissions continuing to climb. With the report delayed a week and despite global acknowledgement about the need to drastically reduce emissions to meet Paris agreement targets, this is the fourth straight emissions rise in a row under a coalition government.  

The major source of increased emissions is the exporting of gas to foreign countries like Japan and India. To export the gas, the production and transportation have a concentrated emissions burden, which is set to continue as new and expanding developments come online in Western Australia. WA Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is driving the surge in Australian emissions, at the same time cancelling out the net benefits of emissions reductions in the energy sector from the uptake of renewable energy production.

The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, has fought back suggestions that Australia would continue to default on international obligations saying that gas exports allow other nations to reduce their own pollution levels relative to other forms of energy production such as coal.

The ‘gas vs coal’ argument was today refuted by Mr Mark Ogge, principal adviser at The Australia Institute:

“Even if gas is used in Australia it is likely to be little, if any, cleaner than coal. And on top of that crowds out the development of cheaper zero emissions renewables, locking in gas infrastructure and continuing emissions for decades. This is is often ignored at the policy level.”

“But once gas is exported the greenhouse gas emissions produced are just as bad or worse” he said.

“This is because processing and transport for export uses a huge amount of energy creating additional emissions. On top of that there is methane leakage at every point of process, most of which is not even accounted for. The idea that gas is ‘clean’ is fossil fuel industry spin. Only the gas industry could spin the narrative of massive emissions export as somehow reducing emissions. Like ‘clean coal’ the notion of ‘clean gas’ has been completely discredited.”

Clean State campaigner Kate Kelly agreed saying that WA LNG is a massive source of emissions at every stage of production and end use amounting to over 200 million tonnes of climate pollution a year.

“We have independent research that shows the need to better regulate our gas industry, ensuring that we are making the most of the current boom and looking ahead to a brighter future with renewables” she said.

“At a time when all other developed countries are reducing emissions, a zero net emissions approach is the only way to go. We need to make sure that we reduce LNG pollution and use any offsets or controls on that industry to grow carbon farming and land restoration projects here in WA. We need to create new jobs and renewable technology as we go – it’s the best thing we can do for our state and our kids’ future.”

ABC’s Four Corners exposes the gap between Australia’s climate aspirations and the stark reality of LNG emissions

This week’s Four Corners program has highlighted why facing the climate change challenge should be the central concern of every decision maker in the nation. However, amongst the states, Western Australian Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is a major cause of Australia’s rising emissions, and is undermining our national capacity to meet the Paris agreement.

Ahead of the Liberal-National Coalition’s budget announcements, federal Labor published its emissions reduction plans yesterday, claiming that Australia could become a “renewables superpower”. There is an unrecognised potential for realising Western Australian carbon and job benefits if a Labor Government gains power and adjusts emissions policy settings after the upcoming national election.

At the state level, the announcement of Federal Labor policy coincided with WA Premier Mark McGowan’s trip to China to promote WA as an LNG ‘hub’ at a time when WA emissions are soaring. WA emissions are rising sharply relative to Australia’s carbon budget, making national capacity to keep on track for the Paris agreement extremely difficult. As evidenced by Reputex’s recent report, requiring the gas industry to offset their emissions from production could create more than 4,000 jobs in the carbon farming, renewables, and land management sectors.

At the same time there has been a surge in renewable energy capacity at the national level. To make the most of the transition, the Four Corner’s program identified that the renewables industry should be supported with regulatory approaches, which mandate targets that can replace fossil fuels for energy production.

Maintaining LNG industry viability whilst meeting Paris targets means supporting approaches such as the ‘zero net emissions’ stance of WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which recently introduced a stronger greenhouse gas policy, only to withdraw it a week later citing the need for more industry and community consultation. Rather than a stronger ‘no new fossil fuel exploration or developments’ approach, the WA EPA has moderately signalled that industry certainty can be achieved by mandating 100% of emissions from large projects, throwing a lifeline to LNG exporters. Meanwhile, WA Health Minister and Deputy Premier Roger Cook yesterday announced a broad ranging inquiry into health and climate change mitigation for the state.

Comments attributed to Clean State campaign director Ms Kate Kelly:

“We are not on track to meet Paris commitments and it’s WA LNG that is driving up Australia’s emissions.

“How can our WA parliamentarians go to interstate forums such as COAG arguing that other states should reduce their emissions so that ours can increase?

“A sensible approach is to counterbalance emissions by requiring all new large projects to offset 100% of their production pollution. This will bring down pollution and generate investment in local carbon farming and renewable energy for WA, creating new jobs in growing industries like battery storage, lithium processing, and green hydrogen export.

“A commonsense approach to transitioning towards a carbon positive economy will allow WA to benefit from a timely regulatory response to the challenge of climate change.”