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.”

New rules for big polluters – a briefing note for EPA submissions

The WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is inviting submissions on its draft Greenhouse Gas Assessment Guidelines to help determine the how new projects should be assessed, and what controls and limits should be placed on carbon emissions from polluting industries.

This briefing note provides information to assist stakeholders and members of the public to make submissions supporting strong new rules for polluters that will help tackle global climate change, while also benefiting the WA environment and creating new jobs as part of a cleaner economy.

Action on climate change requires action at all levels of government, industry, and community, in order to rapidly reduce carbon pollution to net zero emissions as quickly as possible. However here in WA, carbon pollution is rising due to ineffective controls on WA’s biggest polluters. Driven by rapid expansion ion in gas processing for export, this rising pollution is in turn driving up Australia’s emissions and preventing international obligations under the Paris Agreement from being met.

As the agency with primary responsibility for providing advice to government on how carbon emissions from polluting industries should be controlled, it is essential that the EPA’s policy is updated and strengthened.

We believe that the key essential elements of an updated policy must:

  1. Reflect the science
  2. Prevent new or expanded fossil fuel production
  3. Require net zero emissions for all polluters
  4. Apply to all polluters and account for all pollution; and
  5. Apply a ‘mitigation hierarchy’ and require certified pollution offsets that benefit Western Australia

These policy principles are described in detail in our briefing note here.

Clean State encourages stakeholders and members of the public to make submissions to the EPA policy that support the approach outlined in our briefing note.

More information can be found on this consultation process, and submissions can be made until the closing date of Monday 2 September 2019 at www.epa.wa.gov.au Or, you can send your pre-filled submission 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.”

EPA policy news in the media

Here are some news articles and media releases examining the LNG industry and the recent policy withdrawal by the EPA on their greenhouse gas guidance here in Western Australia.

We recommend having a read of the following articles to find out more about interesting points in the debate, like just how many jobs are actually created by the LNG industry (around 1% of WA’s workforce), how many jobs could be created if the EPA’s policy was applied.

The West Australian, by Peter Milne, 27 March 2019

Future emissions shock for WA’s major LNG players

The LNG players that pushed back against new large projects having to offset all their greenhouse gases produce a dominant and growing share of the State’s carbon emissions from industry and power generation. 

WA Today, by Emma Young, 21 March 2019

Going carbon neutral would barely touch Woodside’s huge Pilbara profits: Thinktank

Oil and gas giant Woodside could right now completely offset all carbon emissions from its North West Shelf and Pluto operations in Western Australia for 1.1-1.5 per cent of those projects’ gross profits, according to a Canberra thinktank.

Guardian Australia, by Adam Morton, 20 March 2019

WA’s rejection of carbon-neutral guidelines leaves LNG emissions booming

Western Australia’s liquefied natural gas industry is the main driver for increased emissions but the state has refused to endorse EPA’s guidelines.

WA Today, by Emma Young, 19 March 2019

All I want to say is that, they don’t really care about us.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees will require nations to phase out coal by mid-century and leave most fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Even at 1.5 degrees, warmer, up to 90 per cent of the world’s coral reefs will die.

Environmental Protection Authority, Chair Dr Tom Hatton, 14 March 2019

Further consultation on Environmental Protection Authority greenhouse gas guidance recognised

WA Government announces EPA withdrawal on climate policy

The Premier Mark McGowan has today announced that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has withdrawn their Air Quality Guidance which required the state’s biggest polluters to avoid, reduce and offset their emissions.

Only hours after hosting a round-table discussion with WA LNG companies and peak industry representatives, Premier Mark McGowan announced the sudden withdrawal of the EPA’s policy, published last week.

Clean State campaign manager Ms Kate Kelly said,

“The policy withdrawal is extremely disappointing given its moderate aims which only sought to offset production emissions and did not include end use pollution.

“Western Australia has an opportunity to stimulate significant employment in industries that can reduce pollution, such as the renewable energy and carbon farming industries to counter the runaway emissions from these projects. We need action on climate change now, our kids cannot wait, we cannot wait.”

Clean State polling shows that nearly 80% of Western Australians want action on climate change and believe that WA gas polluters should be regulated to offset their emissions. The Clean State campaign has collected the signatures of over 5,000 people who support the policy released by the EPA last week.

The pollution from the LNG industry in WA is a major driver in Australia’s emissions growth, with WA’s emissions rising by a staggering 27% between 2000 and 2016.

For as little as 2% of their profits Chevron could be making their pollution carbon ‘neutral’ according to Chevron’s own publicly reported emissions capacity.

Clean State released independent analysis from RepuTex Energy, revealing 4,000 new jobs would be created in land management, renewable energy and clean industries if the state government acted on requiring WA’s largest polluters to offset emissions.

“There is still an opportunity to capture significant employment and economic benefits for WA. 

Now, more than ever it is time to listen to the needs of our state and plan for a better future” Ms Kelly said.

Clean State will be supporting students in the school strike for climate action on Friday 15 March at St George’s Cathedral from 11am.

Clean State welcomes new Climate Policy from the Environmental Protection Authority

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has today released a new Air Quality Guidance which will put stronger obligations on fossil fuel companies to reduce and manage greenhouse gas emissions produced in Western Australia.

The outcome will be a ‘zero net emissions’ approach which will stimulate significant employment in industries that can reduce pollution and generate carbon credits, such as the renewable energy and carbon farming industries.

Clean State campaign manager, Ms Kate Kelly welcomed the policy adjustment saying that,

“Our children and our state now have a much brighter future because of the new Environmental Protection Authority climate policy. Fossil fuel companies will need to demonstrate that they are reducing and counterbalancing all of their climate pollution from production.  

At the same time, it provides enormous opportunity for our state’s economy to transition to using renewable energy alongside the growth of carbon offset industries here in WA.”

The new policy will bring State commitments closer in line with Australia’s international agreements and calls from climate scientists to reduce rather than increase climate pollution.

The recent upswing in Australia’s national emissions is mainly driven by the production of Western Australian Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for export which uses gas to fuel the liquefaction process and is very energy intensive.

Only 15% of WA gas is used in Western Australia, and only a small fraction of that (around 3%) is used in homes.

Clean State commissioned report, Offsetting Emissions from LNG in WA with independent analysis shows that around 4,000 new jobs would be created, mostly in regional areas through offsetting the emissions of major polluters on projects here in Western Australia. Tree planting, native vegetation or ecological restoration and avoiding clearing will all provide carbon credits, known as ‘carbon farming’.

The policy released today provides a fantastic opportunity for moving towards the diversification of regional economies whilst generating significant social and environmental benefits.

Ms Kelly says “reinstatement and strengthening of conditions on LNG and other fossil fuel companies will send a price signal to the market but one which they can easily meet with a few days of operating profits”

“Compared to the alternative which is runaway impacts from climate change, this policy shows that WA is ready to do its part to stop climate change and it’s a win win situation which will support the right industries and jobs to grow in our economy while looking after the environment.”

OECD Review highlights need for action on pollution from WA gas processing

A newly-released OECD Review of Australia’s Environmental Performance has singled out WA’s growing LNG industry as a primary driver of Australia’s rising carbon pollution, noting that the ‘rapid increase in emissions’ from this sector has offset savings made elsewhere in Australia’s electricity sector, due to the closure of coal-fired power stations.

The report is a snapshot of Australia’s response to climate change and its progress in protecting national biodiversity. It is highly critical of Australia’s ‘ad hoc’ approach to climate change and notes that Western Australia is the only Australian State without a carbon pollution reduction target.

Clean State Campaign Manager Kate Kelly today welcomed the report, saying it provided yet more evidence of the urgent need to get pollution from WA gas processing under control.

“This report is particularly timely given that measures to control carbon pollution from WA’s two biggest gas processing facilities are currently under review by the EPA.”

“While other States have pollution reduction targets and are closing polluting coal generators, these gains are being cancelled out because WA has runaway growth in carbon pollution from new gas processing facilities.”

“Gas companies like Chevron pay little tax and no royalties, yet they are driving climate change with tens of millions of tonnes of pollution every year. It’s time this industry cleaned up its act but we know from experience that the answer is strong government action.

“Polling shows 78% of Western Australians support action by the State Government to control pollution from gas processing, and now the OECD report explains why there is an urgency to consider this a priority action as part of global efforts on climate change.

“The OECD report provides a strong signal to the WA Government that addressing pollution from the oil and gas industry must be a priority, and the good news is that such action has the potential to kick-start new industries and generate thousands of new jobs for Western Australians.

Analysis by Reputex Energy shows that if gas companies were required to invest just a few percent of their massive annual profits in climate solutions like tree planting, renewable energy and land management, around 4,000 new jobs would be created, mostly in regional WA.


Taskforce can unlock thousands of jobs by tackling LNG pollution

Clean State has called on the LNG Jobs Taskforce to focus on the huge job creation opportunities that are immediately available in WA, by LNG companies addressing their rapidly rising carbon pollution.

The LNG sector is WA’s largest polluter, and growth in this pollution is putting Australia’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement at risk.

As part of the Clean State campaign, the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) recently released independent analysis from RepuTex Energy, revealing around 4,000 new jobs would be created in land management, renewable energy, and other industries if the LNG industry offset its greenhouse gas emissions.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said, “We call upon the Premier and the LNG Jobs Taskforce to focus not just on engineering and manufacturing jobs, but also consider the huge job creation potential that exists in tackling carbon pollution from the LNG industry.

“While the cost of tackling LNG pollution represents just a few percent of LNG companies’ mega profits, it represents an enormous source of jobs and benefits for Western Australians. All of these jobs and benefits can be captured here in Western Australia.”

Clean State Campaign Manager Kate Kelly said that jobs tackling carbon pollution were easy wins for the LNG Jobs Taskforce and should be considered low hanging fruit.

“The analysis shows that the majority of jobs in tackling carbon pollution will be located in regional areas. Industries such as land management, tree planting, and renewable energy would be big winners and even bigger employers.

“The LNG industry is currently the state’s largest polluter, but tackling that pollution can be turned into a huge opportunity to develop new clean industries that will position WA to be a leader in the future low carbon global economy.

“This is a win-win for jobs and the environment, and should be top of the agenda for the LNG Jobs Taskforce.”

The Guardian Australia report series: A looming crisis

The Guardian Australia reports, “the booming LNG industry is behind Australia’s expanding emissions rates, yet it is all but forgotten in the national debate on climate policy.” 

Taking a closer look at why this is a problem-in-waiting both domestically and internationally, in a series of environmental reports, is The Guardian’s Adam Morton.

Image above by Graeme Robertson for the Guardian via The Guardian. Image source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/23/woodside-applies-to-build-big-polluting-lng-plant-with-no-emissions-plan