The 116 new fossil fuel projects in the pipeline would pollute the atmosphere with 4.8 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030 if they all came to fruition, according to a new report.
Canberra think-tank the Australia Institute says the combined impact of the dozens of new coal, oil and gas projects on the government’s Resources and Energy Major Projects list would amount to 1.4 billion tonnes of annual emissions.
And, as the government seeks to firm up support on its contentious Safeguard Mechanism, the report reveals that of the 4.8 billion tonnes of emissions projected by 2030, just 344 million of those tonnes are accounted for under the reforms.
The reports’ authors say the projected amount of emissions of the 116 projects is 24 times greater than the total 204 million tonne reduction set out by the Safeguard Mechanism.
The Coalition do not support the mechanism, which would force the country’s 215 largest emitters to reduce their emissions every year through to 2030.
In order to pass the Bill through the senate, Labor needs to get the Greens and independent crossbenchers such as David Pocock onside.
The Greens, however, have routinely said the mechanism needs to completely rule out any new coal and gas projects.
Report co-author Mark Ogge said the proposed Safeguard Mechanism proposal would deliver a theoretical reduction of the projects’ emissions of just 86 million tonnes.
The data used in the report does factor in the coal, oil and gas exported to international markets, however the report states Australia has a responsibility under the United Nations and the International Energy Agency, and as such any new fossil fuel projects are “incompatible” with global temperature goals.
“Australia has more gas and coal mine proposals in 2023 than we did in 2021,” he said.
“Despite the need for action, despite our climate election, there are more fossil fuel projects now, not less.
“This shows that Australia’s climate policies are not working. The proposed Safeguard Mechanism reform not only fails to stop these damaging projects, but legitimises and facilitates them.
“Having a level of pollution approved by the federal government actually assists gas and coal projects with approvals from state government regulators.”
A spokesperson for Chris Bowen said reforms in the Safeguard Mechanism take into account the possibility of new entrants and increased production and still delivered 205 million tonnes of emissions reduction.
“That’s the equivalent of taking two-thirds of Australia’s cars off the road,” the spokesperson said.
As it stands, Australia’s commitment to reduce scope one emissions is in line with the Paris Agreement.
Suddenly including scope three would be equivalent to, for example, Japan becoming responsible for the emissions of Australian motorists driving Japanese-made cars, including Toyotas.
In addition, not all of the 116 projects currently listed will eventuate, and the Department of Energy has factored in a “reasonable number” of those projects in its emissions reductions modelling as part of the mechanism.
That has led to the government’s final abatement figure of 205 million tonnes, which includes a buffer of 17 million tonnes.
But the Greens and Senator Pocock say the mechanism does not go far enough.
“It is crystal clear that we do not need new coal and gas mines to power the Australian economy, there’s plenty in the system for us to make the transition to renewables,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said.
“We still have not heard a convincing explanation from the government about why they want to keep opening up coal and gas mines.
“We’re not asking for the perfect, we’re asking for the bare minimum.”
Senator Pocock said the Safeguard Mechanism had the potential to be a great piece of climate policy that does bring down emissions, but needed strengthening.
“It makes a lot of sense to me that if we’re going to say the Safeguard Mechanism is going to reduce emissions and legislate that, it doesn’t seem like a big ask (to cap emissions),” he said.
“Australia joins Kazakhstan as the only two countries in the world that allow unlimited offsets.”