Last Tuesday, Tanya Plibersek, the Minister for the Environment and Water, released the State of the Environment Report and delivered an address on it to the National Press Club. A small but determined group of Nannas joined environment activists for a rally outside her office, while others watched her address live on ABC News 24. It is now available on ABC iview.
Nannas have been campaigning for major changes if not a rewrite of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) since the Samuel’s Report was released in 2020. It was basically found to be unfit for purpose and we are pleased that the new Labor government has committed to getting on with major changes in line with the Samuel Review.
However, Nannas say, if Labor is serious about Climate Change and saving our environment, they should not be approving new coal and gas mining enterprises! And what is the Minister saying when she stresses that Scope 3 emissions from coal and gas are excluded from our greenhouse gas targets?
Scope 3 emissions are produced by the country that burns coal or gas to produce electricity, steel or any other product. These emissions are not counted towards our internationally agreed emissions targets, as the Minister says. But is she saying we can keep mining gas and coal for export for as long as mining companies can find a market for it? We are looking for more information from Minister Plibersek and Chris Bowen, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy in the first weeks of the new parliament.
Let’s look at a comparison of the different emissions, Scope 1, 2 and 3. The NSW Independent Planning Commission approved 7 new fossil fuel mines in 2020/21. Australian Conservation Foundation research estimates the following total emissions from the projects:
Scope 1 and 2 emissions will total: 64,158,948 t-C02-e.
Scope 3 emissions are expected to be: 970,033,178 t-C02-e.
Surely we need to include the Scope 3 emissions into our thinking and debates about gas and coal mining and Australia’s global responsibilities in the climate emergency.
“The Sunrise Project has found 13 greenfield coal mines and 14 extensions of existing coal mines had been referred to the federal government for assessment under the EPBC Act.” Ref 1
“The Greens have called for a moratorium on new coal and gas mines, reflecting assessments by climate scientists and statements by the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, and the International Energy Agency that they are inconsistent with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Several independent MPs have adopted a similar position.”
Nannas continue to stress that unconventional gas, such as coal seam gas, is extremely destructive in many ways. It is not a transition fuel between coal and renewables. Coal seam gas generates as much emissions as coal when it’s whole of life emissions are taken into account. It reduces the emissions of countries importing it as it produces less emissions when burnt. But fugitive emissions from the extraction process and from massive infrastructure in Australia, add to our emissions and have been under reported for years. Ref 2
The only coal seam gas project in NSW is the Narrabri Gas Project. It has already been approved, but it is held up by a Gomeroi claim to the Native Title Tribunal.
Santos has delayed their investment decision until 2024. They need to have access to more gas and a pipeline to take it to the east coast gas network.
Opposition to this project is huge. Coal seam gas has the potential to contaminate surface and underground water, such as the Great Artesian Basin and there is no safe disposal method for the salts and toxins brought up from the coal seam during the extraction process.
Ref 1: Labor faces decisions on approval of up to 27 coal developments including greenfield mines The Guardian 11 July 2022
Ref 2: Methane emissions higher than previous estimates in Queensland’s Surat Basin CSG region ABC News 28 September 2021