Conservation Groups have commented on a new draft carbon pollution policy released by the WA EPA, saying that the policy affirms important principles that WA’s pollution must be reduced to zero and that emphasis must be placed on avoiding further emissions growth.
The EPA policy affirms the State Governments net zero emissions target and confirms the expectation that individual projects must ‘contribute’ to this goal, including by avoiding further pollution increases. Industry must employ a ‘hierarchy’ of measures, starting with avoiding pollution altogether as the first priority and offsetting remaining emissions where they cannot be avoided.
Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said the policy was silent on how the net zero pollution goal would be applied to individual projects, leaving that to the discretion of the EPA and Minister.
“We are concerned that there is too much discretion in this policy; however, the fundamental principles remain - pollution must go down not up, and new projects must avoid adding to the problem.
“Over recent months great political pressure has been applied to the EPA to set aside the science and instead be swayed by other factors such as the cost to WA’s biggest polluters.
“During this process, it has been unedifying to observe WA’s biggest polluters exert influence on WA’s highest political offices in order to block reasonable action on climate change that would create jobs for thousands of West Australians.
“While there has been a clear attempt to politicise this process, for the EPA this is a matter of science, not politics.
“Regardless of what pressure they may be put under or how their policy may be worded, the EPA has a clear legal obligation to provide science-based advice to protect WA’s environment.
“On climate change, the science is very clear and is sounding a stronger alarm every day. Pollution must be reduced immediately, and further increases are simply not compatible with maintaining a safe climate.
“Governments may ignore the advice of the EPA, but the EPA also provides important signals to the market, the community and investors.
“In a situation where the Government appears to be captured by private interests which are making a global climate crisis worse, it is the public role of the EPA’s advice that becomes absolutely critical in delivering its mission to protect the state’s environment.
“This new policy comes at a time when global emissions continue to increase – driven primarily by the use of natural gas which has taken over from coal as the main driver of emissions growth over the past 12 months.
“Environment groups will continue to work with the EPA and support the agency to ensure that its policy and advice reflects the need for urgent action on climate change here in Western Australia," said Mr Verstegen.