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.”