Western Australia is at a critical moment, with two very different pathways lying ahead.
With some of the best solar, wind and critical mineral resources in the world, we are perfectly placed to transform our economy into a renewable energy superpower. WA can be a world leader in exporting renewable energy, critical minerals required for renewable energy, and zero-emissions products.
Our state can lead a new, national, ‘green resources boom,’ learning from the mistakes of the past and recognising that there is an ecological limit to extractivism. Extractive industry practices must be grounded in social, environmental and climate justice. The transition to renewables must ensure strong protection of the state’s unique biodiversity and ecosystems, and respect for the communities on Country.
This green boom would not only lower energy costs but also create incredible new employment opportunities that would provide secure well-paying jobs for decades to come.
As we phase out existing fossil fuel projects, we could lead decarbonisation in Australia, and become a key regional player in supporting decarbonisation in Asia. That’s the exciting future that Western Australia has, if it chooses.
The other path is more of the same. Investing in new fossil fuel projects and allowing companies like Woodside to extend their gas exports all the way to 2070, through massive new gas projects, like the Burrup Hub. These companies claim that producing gas is an important part of the energy transition, but in reality they are delaying the change we all so desperately need. Gas is a fossil fuel – and its use is slowing down the transition to renewable energy, both in WA and for our regional partners.
The extraction, processing, and transportation of gas are associated with significant methane emissions. Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in a 20-year time period accelerating climate change and undermining the net-zero ambitions that the WA state government is seeking to place into law.
Woodside’s Burrup Hub plans include the Scarborough and Browse gas fields, along with extending the North West Shelf gas processing plant to 2070. It will be pumping out six billion tonnes of CO2e in the process. The vast majority of Woodside’s gas is exported, and does not benefit Western Australians.
Which makes Roger Cook’s comments this week all the more alarming.
Speaking during his trip to Tokyo, the Premier told reporters that Japanese government officials and business leaders claimed that WA’s LNG exports were keeping them from using coal as an energy source.
Mr Cook then chided efforts to reduce WA’s emissions, telling reporters “we’re not simply wrapping ourselves in a blanket of self-satisfaction by reaching net zero ourselves if that is going to be at the detriment of the globe.”
The Premier’s disingenuous offer to keep WA churning out dirty gas for years to come must be called out.
A leaked CSIRO report found Australian gas could actually extend the use of coal, displace renewable energy and increase emissions in Asia. It is imperative that our state supports our regional neighbours in finding greener alternatives to gas. Energy security for WA and our region can be found in renewable alternatives.
Mr Cook's comments in support of carbon capture and storage (CCS) are also unfounded. WA’s only CCS project - Chevron’s Gorgon project - has been marred with delays and has not met the carbon capture and storage requirements that were necessary to justify its approval.
CCS is a mechanism to prop up the fossil fuel industry. Instead, we should prioritise actions that have an immediate and substantial impact on reducing emissions, such as investing in renewables and developing a comprehensive plan to phase out gas.
In just over two weeks, the Premier is a keynote speaker at the WA Energy Transition Summit. It will be his opportunity to show strong environmental leadership and forge a path for WA that points firmly towards the future, not the past. He needs to re-think his stance on gas and get serious about the net-zero emissions target and act in the interest of WA.
Roger Cook's warning against wrapping ourselves in a "blanket of self-satisfaction" in pursuit of net-zero emissions may leave us needing a different kind of blanket—a fire blanket—as we brace for the record-breaking heat waves anticipated this summer. WA’s unique ecosystems are at threat from climate change, from the Ningaloo Reef, to the Northern Jarrah Forest. Increasing heatwaves and bushfires will put increasing pressure on communities which are already vulnerable to these threats.
Our natural environment, thriving communities and the cultural significance of land and sea are what make our home in WA an extraordinary place to live. This is why it is crucial for our state government and Premier to be a driving force in accelerating the transition to cleaner and renewable energy sources.
Anna Chapman is the Fossil Fuels Program Manager at the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA)
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost nonprofit, non-government conservation organisation representing nearly 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia. For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please call 0412 272 570