Australia has more than 100 fossil fuels in the pipeline, which could result in nearly 1.7 billion. tons of greenhouse gases per year – equivalent to about 5% of global industrial emissions – if all were to go ahead, says an analysis.
The Australian Government lists 116 major coal and gas projects under development, each with a value of more than A $ 50 million. and with the potential to reach a final investment decision within the next five years.
Not all will be built, but a new report says it is an indication of fossil fuel development continuing in Australia, including with taxpayer support, despite the Morrison government committing to zero zero emissions by 2050.
When Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched a plan for the country to reach the goal last week ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government “would not shut down our coal or gas production”. The plan said the country’s fossil fuel export industries would continue “until 2050 and beyond and support jobs and regional communities”.
Angus Taylor, the Emission Reduction Minister, has also promised to use Cop26 to promote Australia as a safe and reliable place to invest in gas and hydrogen.
An analysis by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank, found the latest data from the energy and resources department’s chief economist, published last December, listed 72 coal and 44 gas and oil projects with the potential to be developed.
The institute also included the proposed Beetaloo Basin gas field in the Northern Territory, which the government has committed up to $ 224m to develop as part of what it calls a “gas-fired recovery” from the pandemic.
Based on the estimated annual capacity of each proposal, it found together that they could add around 146 million. tonnes for emissions in Australia (equivalent to an almost 30% annual increase) during extraction and processing. The overwhelming largest share of emissions – about 1.6 billion. tons – would be released offshore after coal and gas were sold and burned for energy.
About two-thirds of the coal projects were listed as at the feasibility stage. Government officials noted that there was a growing preference for mine expansions over greenfield projects and that some lenders and investors would no longer finance thermal coal used for electricity generation.
Richie Merzian, a former Australian government climate negotiator now with the Australia Institute, said the country continued to pursue an aggressive expansion of fossil fuels with potential emissions on the list equivalent to more than 200 coal-fired power plants. “Australia cannot claim to act on climate change while expanding fossil fuel projects,” he said.
The Morrison Government’s position on fossil fuels is that costs and global 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 provided a $ 175 million loan for a new metallurgical coal mine in Queensland. On gas, it has said it was hoping to develop four more basins after Beetaloo. State and territory governments under both the coalition and Labor also support the expansion of fossil fuels.
Hugh Saddler, an energy analyst and honorary lecturer at the Australian National University, said the federal government “just joined absolutely business-as-usual” on fossil fuels.
“There has been no thought of how to fit it into some supposed plan to reach net zero by 2050,” he said. “We know that the key to stopping 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 putting taxpayers’ money into doing so.”
The government’s 2050 net zero emissions plan has been criticized for not including new policies and relying on new technology to make major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the 2030s and 40s. It says it is committing $ 20 billion over a decade to help lower the cost of some technologies. The majority of the expenditure is a continuation of many years of funding for clean energy agencies.
The government has supported CO2 capture and storage (CCS) technology – burying greenhouse gases from industrial plants kilometers underground – to extend their lifespan, and has committed $ 250 million to a “CCS technologies and hubs” program.
Australian governments have previously pledged about $ 4 billion. in funding for CCS, but it has not proven to be commercially viable. The country has a CCS plant in operation at Chevron’s Gorgon gas development in Western Australia. It has suffered delays and operational problems and captures only part of the emissions on site.
Gas company Santos confirmed on Monday that it would continue with a CCS development of 220 million. USD at the Moomba gas reservoir in southern Australia after the Morrison government approved it to earn revenue from carbon credits to store underground emissions. Santos said the project could store 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide a year from 2024.
The gas industry group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, said the Australia Institute’s analysis should not be considered “objective, scientific or reasonable” as the think tank had made its opposition to the industry “very clear”.
Its CEO, Andrew McConville, said it would be more constructive for people to listen to those who had recognized that gas had a role to play in a future of low emissions, including the International Energy Agency, the UN and Australia’s former chief scientist . Alan Finkel.
Some have supported gas – which has about half of coal emissions when burned, and more when methane leaks during extraction – as an ongoing role as the world moves away from coal, but few have 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 needed to “face the fact that we need to stop burning coal and gas”.
“The proposal, which seems to be fashionable in some circles here, that we can keep burning coal, and actually exporting coal, and which is somehow in line with reaching net zero by 2050, is nonsense, “he told ABC’s RN Breakfast. “The reality is that if we continue to burn fossil fuels, we will fry the planet.”