Plans to expand highly polluting fossil fuel export facilities in WA’s north west are directly increasing the likelihood of fires, floods and droughts, according to a new campaign launched in Perth.
The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) – the organisation behind the new Go Beyond Gas campaign - points to WA’s biggest polluters – the likes of Woodside, Santos and Chevron – as the biggest contributors to the climate crisis from the millions of tonnes of methane and carbon dioxide emissions they produce each year.
The new campaign was launched at a community event in Perth on Saturday attended by more than 100 people from across the state and likeminded groups including the Australian Conservation Foundation Perth, Doctors for the Environment, School Strike 4 Climate WA, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). The campaign will work alongside other organisations and groups across WA in helping to raise awareness of the effect of WA’s gas industry on the climate.
WA is one of the world’s biggest producers and exporters of gas – a fossil fuel which is 86 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. That trapped heat contributes to more frequent and more extreme weather events, both in Australia and overseas.
Methane also produces CO2 when burned, particularly in the case of LNG which is exported in huge quantities from facilities in WA.
“The gas industry has a greater negative impact on the climate crisis than any other industry in Western Australia”, said Anna Chapman, Fossil Fuels Program Manager at CCWA.
“Gas – and the pollution it creates – is a huge problem, not just here in WA, but globally.
“The simple fact is that, because of gas, WA is disproportionately making the climate crisis much worse. We’re not doing our bit, and no matter what else we might do to help tackle pollution, unless we specifically tackle gas pollution, we’re not going to get very far.”
Western Australia is the only state with emissions above 2005 levels (4 per cent), despite the national target for emissions reductions of 43 per cent by 2030. This is in stark contrast to South Australia and Victoria which have reduced their emissions by 42 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively. This increase in emissions in WA has coincided with growth of gas production in the state, with companies like Woodside looking to extend and expand their operations well into the 2070s.
Plans to develop new gas fields like Scarborough and Browse – as well as extending the life of highly polluting processing facilities, like the North West Shelf – have proven increasingly controversial in Western Australia and nationally.
In particular, Woodside has come under sustained criticism for its continued pursuit of new fossil fuel projects in Western Australia and for its failure to properly account for the serious environmental impact of its emissions. The company is one of Australia’s biggest polluters, emitting an estimated 75 million tonnes of carbon emissions last year in exchange for more than $9.6 billion (AUD) in profits.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the world’s foremost scientific body on climate – has made it clear that there should be no more gas projects built if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
In its latest report – published in March this year – the IPCC warned that governments must commit to tougher emissions reductions targets and accelerate the phase out of polluting fossil fuels – including gas – to keep warming below 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels. It also warned that climate change, caused by pollution from fossil fuels, was already causing widespread damage from an increase in extreme weather events like heatwaves floods, fires and droughts. The damage from these weather events will be acutely felt by nations and communities that have contributed the least to climate change.
Western Australia has already experienced extreme weather events which scientists believe have been either part caused or exacerbated by the effects of climate change, particularly in the case of bushfires.
Organisers say the new campaign is particularly focussed on combatting ‘industry spin’ – such as that from oil and gas lobby group APPEA, which recently launched a multi-million-dollar nationwide PR campaign to promote gas and the industry which supports it.
APPEA’s adverts, which have appeared on television, radio on billboards and in print, allege that gas is ‘keeping the country running’. But several of the ‘facts’ presented by APPEA have been found to be only partly true, to have been cherrypicked from friendly sources or to have flat-out ignored the role of gas in accelerating climate change.
Last month, an APPEA television campaign was banned by Australia’s advertising watchdog which found the advert made misleading and unsubstantiated claims.
CCWA Programs Director, Maggie Wood, stressed the importance of holding the gas industry to account on the matter.
“The gas industry regularly overstates its importance to Australian energy supply and the economy”, she said.
“It is the smallest employer by sector, producing fewer jobs per dollar of investment than any other industry. Equally, the amount of money gas contributes to the Australian economy is miniscule – most of the profits flow to overseas shareholders. In fact, the WA budget collects more from car registration fees than it does from gas royalties.
“Equally, gas’ role in Australian energy security is hugely misrepresented - particularly here in WA, where the vast majority is loaded onto a ship and sold overseas for enormous profits.
“The PR machine for the gas industry is bank-rolled by billions of dollars in fossil fuel money. Our means are considerably more modest, but this campaign is going to play a vital role in promoting a more balanced and factually accurate debate about the impact that big gas is having here in Australia.”
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost non-profit, non-government conservation organisation representing nearly 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia. For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
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