The media have adopted a wait-and-see approach towards the new Labor government, particularly concerning the climate.
The media have adopted a wait-and-see approach towards the new Labor government, particularly concerning the climate. This indulgent attitude stands in stark contrast to the ALP’s actual activity. Although Labor politicians are not outwardly marketing themselves as climate criminals and brandishing lumps of coal in parliament, it is already clear they love fossil fuels just as much as the Liberal Party.
Their support for the Scarborough gas pipeline exemplifies this: the $16 billion project is set to be the biggest gas project in Australia in a decade. It will involve the construction of a massive underwater pipeline from the Scarborough gas field, 375 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia, to an expanded Pluto gas plant on shore. Gas will be drilled from the seafloor, transported through the pipeline to the processing plant, and transformed into the highly profitable commodity of liquefied natural gas (LNG) .
The scale of environmental destruction represented by the Scarborough project is profound. It will contribute more to emissions than the Adani coal mine, with scientists estimating its emissions to total 1.4 billion tonnes across its lifespan. This is three times the total amount of Australia’s annual emissions.
The company in control of Scarborough, Woodside Energy, denies this. They argue that the project is consistent with the Paris Agreement target of limiting global emissions to 1.5 per cent by 2050. Yet this calculation is based on fanciful assumptions about the success of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. In truth, it is, according to a report by Climate Analytics, “an essentially unproven technology with a history of failures, cost overruns and major deployment delays”. Woodside’s calculations also ignore the overseas emissions generated by Scarbourough, which is convenient considering that most of the project’s LNG will be exported.
When you dig a little deeper Woodside’s claims to environmentalism are total crap.
This is also the case when it comes to the company’s supposed respect for Indigenous people. A recent study suggests that Woodside’s gas projects are damaging Indigenous rock art, some of which is believed to be nearly 50,000 years old, and that Scarborough would certainly cause greater damage. Woodside’s disgraceful response has been, while desecrating Indigenous history, to claim that “traditional custodians must be central to the management of their heritage.
The ALP is defending Scarborough viciously. Labor Resources Minister Madeleine King has warned against “demonising the [fossil fuel] sector”. She has also labelled Greens leader Adam Bandt an “extremist” for rightly pointing out the criminal destructiveness of the project.
One of Labor’s central justifications for Scarborough is that gas is a ‘transition fuel’ and part of Australia’s economic ‘decarbonisation’. This is a case of extreme greenwashing. Although natural gases do produce about half as much carbon dioxide as coal for the amount of energy generated, this does not make them the basis of a green energy transition. To achieve anything of the sort, according to the International Energy Agency, there can be no new investments in oil, coal and gas. Labor’s talk of transition fuels points us in the complete opposite direction.
The Scarborough project is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to environmental destruction and the ALP’s active role in facilitating it. At the end of 2021, the Australian government had 72 major coal projects under development, and 44 major new gas and oil projects. If these went ahead, Australia would become the world’s largest export emitter. Labor has made no indication of a course change. Instead, they are using the international gas crisis and the commercial opportunities it offers to justify stronger commitments to gas.
This cannot be reduced to the ALP inheriting the Morrison government’s horrendous climate legacy. In its brief time in office, Labor has renewed its vocal support for practically every high profile fossil fuel project over the last decade, from the Narrbri gas mine, over which even the New South Wales Liberal government has concerns, to the Browse gas field, a project so destructive and controversial that it had stalled for a decade and, until recently, was widely thought dead.
The ALP has once again demonstrated with the Scarborough gas plant that they ultimately rule in the interest of big business, against the interests of ordinary people and the planet. This is why we must protest. A demonstration called for 30 July by a coalition of climate activist groups is the perfect opportunity to start building the movement we need.
Uni Students for Climate Justice, Vic Forrest Alliance, Extinction Rebellion and others are calling people to join them at 1pm on Saturday 30 July, meeting outside the State Library, to demand urgent climate action. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1140185836710341
This piece was submitted to Farrago as an opinion piece. Image was provided by writer.