Labor already under fire over imminent fossil fuel projects


Jaded by their 2019 defeat, in opposition Labor infamously refused to pause the pipeline of fossil fuel projects under development which, if completed, could more than double the current domestic carbon emissions of Australia.

That position has come back to bite them on the very same day Albanese committed Australia to a stronger 2030 emissions reduction target of 43%.

The Greens, which enjoyed their strongest ever election result to date on Saturday, want to see that figure at 75%, while many of the ‘teal’ Independents are backing fellow Zali Steggall’s Climate Act Now bill which calls for a 60% reduction. In short, both are looking for stronger commitments, and both want a pause on new fossil fuel projects.

At the time of writing, Labor had secured 74 seats in the House, still shy of the 76 need to form a majority government. Even if Labor is able to secure a majority, it will likely need to work closely with the Greens and the independent crossbench to pass legislation, especially through the senate – where the Greens have an even stronger position. 

Their leader, Adam Bandt, has today agreed with former WA premier, Liberal Colin Barnett who told the Australian Financial Review, “climate change is what people talked about and Labor talked about [at the election] so it will be difficult to achieve a tougher target for 2030 when you’ve got a big project like Scarborough.”

A joint venture from Woodside and BHP, the $16.5 billion Scarborough gas project in Western Australia was given final approval earlier this year, despite the fact the Conservation Council of Western Australia and the Australia Institute released found it would release 1.6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases across its lifetime.

“Colin Barnett is right that if Labor proceeds with climate bombs like the Scarborough gas project, the increased emissions will ‘dwarf everything else’ and Labor won’t meet even its own weak climate targets,” Bandt said.

“Labor proceeding with climate-destroying gas projects like Scarborough and Beetaloo would indeed be breaking a promise with people who voted for more climate action.”

Like Scarborough, Origin Energy’s project in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin has been widely criticised. The Greens claim it could increase Australia’s emissions by as much as 13%.

Bandt also pointed out the economic impacts of pausing the pipeline of fossil fuel projects would likely have little flow on effect in terms of the federal government’s revenues. “Coal and gas corporations are amongst the most egregious tax avoiders in the country, so stopping new projects will have a very manageable impact on the federal budget,” he said.

“The first rule of dealing with an emergency is to stop making the problem worse but Labor is vowing to open up new methane projects like Scarborough and Beetaloo, adding fuel to the fire and putting a safe climate further out of reach,” he added.

“These projects can still be stopped. The incoming government has the power to hit the pause button, and that’s what the scientists are telling us we need to do.”

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