Australia has more than 100 fossil fuel developments in the pipeline that could result in nearly 1.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year – the equivalent of about 5% of global industrial emissions – if all were to move forward, according to an analysis.
The Australian government lists 116 major coal and gas projects under development, each valued at over A $ 50 million and with the potential to reach a final investment decision within the next five years.
Not everything will be built, but a new report says it’s an indication of fossil fuel development continuing in Australia, including with taxpayer support, despite the Morrison government’s commitment to net zero emissions by now 2050.
Launching a plan for the country to meet the target last week ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government “would not shut down our production of coal or gas”. The plan called for the country’s fossil fuel export industries to continue “into 2050 and beyond, supporting jobs and regional communities.”
Angus Taylor, the emissions reduction minister, also pledged to use Cop26 to promote Australia as a safe and reliable place to invest in gas and hydrogen.
Analysis by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank, found that the most recent data from the chief economist of the Department of Energy and Resources, released last December, listed 72 coal projects and 44 gas and oil projects likely to be developed.
The institute also included the Beetaloo Basin gas field project in the Northern Territory, which the government has pledged to develop up to $ 224 million as part of what it calls a “takeover.” gas âof the pandemic.
Based on the estimated annual capacity of each proposal, he found that they could add around 146 million tonnes to emissions in Australia (equivalent to an annual increase of almost 30%) during mining and processing. The overwhelming majority of emissions – around 1.6 billion tonnes – would be released offshore after coal and gas were sold and burned for power.
About two-thirds of the coal projects have been listed as at the feasibility stage. Government officials noted that there was a growing preference for mining expansion over entirely new projects and that some lenders and investors would no longer finance thermal coal, which is used in power generation.
Richie Merzian, Australia’s former government climate negotiator now with the Australia Institute, said the country continues to pursue aggressive fossil fuel expansion with potential emissions on the list equivalent to more than 200 coal-fired power plants. âAustralia cannot pretend to act on climate change while simultaneously developing fossil fuel projects,â he said.
The Morrison government’s position on fossil fuels is that global costs and markets will dictate the pace of the shift to cleaner technology. It has approved the expansion of four coal mines since September and in July granted a loan of $ 175 million for a new metallurgical coal mine in Queensland. On gas, he said he hoped to develop four more basins after Beetaloo. State and territory governments under the coalition and Labor are also supporting the expansion of fossil fuels.
Hugh Saddler, energy analyst and honorary associate professor at Australian National University, said the federal government “was content to maintain the status quo” on fossil fuels.
âThere hasn’t been any thought on how you fit that into a supposed plan to reach net zero by 2050,â he said. “We know that the important thing to stop the most catastrophic climate change is to stop fossil fuels, but Australia is stepping on the accelerator to develop coal and gas as quickly as possible and is investing the money. taxpayers to do it. “
The government’s 2050 net zero emissions plan has been criticized for not including new policies and relying on new technologies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the 2030s and 1940s. It says that it commits $ 20 billion over a decade to help reduce the cost of certain technologies. Most of the spending is a continuation of long-standing funding for clean energy agencies.
The government has backed carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology – burying greenhouse gases from industrial sites miles underground – to extend their lifespan, and committed $ 250 million to a program of âCCS technologies and centersâ.
Australian governments have already committed around $ 4 billion in funding for CCS, but this has failed to prove commercially viable. The country has an operating CCS plant at Chevron’s Gorgon gas development in Western Australia. It has suffered delays and operating problems and only captures part of the site’s emissions.
Gas company Santos confirmed on Monday that it will proceed with a $ 220 million CCS development at the Moomba gas reservoir in South Australia after the Morrison government approved it to derive revenue from carbon credits for storage of emissions underground. Santos said the project could store 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from 2024.
The gas industry group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, said the Australia Institute’s analysis should not be viewed as “objective, scientific or reasonable” as the think tank had expressed its opposition to the “very clear” industry.
Its chief executive, Andrew McConville, said it would be more constructive for people to listen to those who have recognized that gas has a role to play in a low-emissions future, including the International Energy Agency, the United Nations and former Chief Scientist of Australia. Alain Finkel.
Some have argued that gas – which generates about half of coal emissions when burned, and more when methane leaks during mining – as playing a continuing role as the world moves away from coal, but little supported the opening of new gas fields.
The head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, said earlier this year that there should be “no new investment in oil, gas and coal from now on” if governments were serious about the climate crisis.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday that Australia must “face the fact that we have to stop burning coal and gas”.
“The proposition that seems to be fashionable in some circles here, that we can continue to burn coal, and even export coal, and which is somewhat compatible with hitting net zero here. 2050, is absurd, âhe told ABC’s RN Breakfast. âThe reality is that if we continue to burn fossil fuels, we will fry the planet. “