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New Research: Woodside's Scarborough project the most polluting development in Australia

June 03, 2021
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The Conservation Council of Western Australia and The Australia Institute have today released new research showing that the Woodside and BHP Scarborough LNG development is one of the most polluting developments proposed in Australia. The research shows the project would release in excess of 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution – equal to 15 coal-fired power stations every year.

The new information comes as environment groups and scientists raise the alarm that further approvals are being considered by the WA Minister for the Environment and Climate Action, despite the lack of assessment of the impacts on the climate and Aboriginal heritage.

The Conservation Council has commenced action in the WA Supreme Court in a bid to overturn approvals already issued to Woodside by the EPA after the company blocked efforts to have the project assessed. While the approvals remain uncertain, Woodside is pushing ahead with the $16 billion development, seeking to make a Final Investment Decision within months.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said: “It is an international outrage that any government would support a project which would result in over a billion tonnes of carbon pollution and cause irreversible impacts on Aboriginal heritage. To do so without assessing its impacts is reckless in the extreme.

“We are deeply concerned that WA Government is rushing these decisions without following due process. The lack of assessment of these impacts exposes the State, and the people of WA to unacceptable and unidentified risks and denies shareholders and investors the information they need to assess the risks of this development properly.”

The International Energy Agency recently released a landmark report demonstrating that no new gas projects can proceed under a global energy scenario that meets the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In addition, several recent court decisions have identified that fossil fuel companies have legal obligations to cut pollution and that Ministers have a duty of care to young people when making decisions on fossil fuel projects.

“In addition to the climate impacts, acid gas pollution from LNG processing is eating away at the surface of the Murujuga Rock Art proposed for World Heritage Listing. This is like the Juukan Gorge disaster in slow motion, and it shows that companies like Woodside and BHP have learned very little from that.”

“Woodside is asking its investors and shareholders to spend $16 billion on Australia’s most polluting fossil fuel project, which would become a stranded asset if the Paris Agreement is implemented. With the Scarborough project, Woodside and BHP are betting the house on the failure of the Paris Agreement and asking investors and shareholders to back their gamble no assessment of its risks.”

“The report we have released today should ring very loud alarm bells for anyone concerned about our future on this planet. We hope it will bring to light information about the risks of this project that Woodside has attempted to hide from investors, the government, and the community.

“The plans by Woodside to power a fraction of the project with solar energy are a token gesture that would reduce total pollution from this project by around 1%. This is not a development that can be made acceptable and should not be considered at all while the shift toward renewable energy is gathering pace around the world.”

Click here to tell the WA Minister for the Environment and Climate Action and your local MP not to sign off on Woodside and BHP's Scarborough gas project. 

Selection of quotes from experts

Prof Carmen Lawrence (ex. WA Premier and Chair National Heritage Council)

“We have seen from what happened at Juukan Gorge that our community expects better when it comes to the protection of our priceless and irreplaceable Aboriginal Heritage. Many of the same circumstances apply to Woodside’s Scarborough development, and the Government has an opportunity to pause and reconsider before permanent damage is locked in. It is clear now that pollution from gas processing on the Burrup is having a significant effect on the Murujuga rock Art. Allowing further expansion of gas processing on this site will increase both the duration and severity of these impacts, and this must be assessed carefully before any further decisions are made, not as an afterthought.   

Adjunct Prof. Bill Hare. Director Climate Analytics:

“It is clear from our own work that in pollution terms the Scarborough LNG development is one of the biggest fossil fuel developments being considered in Australia. The resulting direct annual emissions will compromise Australia’s emissions reduction goals, while the global emissions from the project mean that it cannot be made consistent with global goals established under the Paris Agreement.

The International Energy Agency’s recent net-zero report shows very clearly that there can be no new fossil fuel developments from this year if the Paris agreement 1.5° goal is to be met. The IEA report makes no exception for Western Australia.”

Mark Ogge, Principal Advisor, the Australia institute

“The Scarborough project and Pluto expansion would add around 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere. It is completely contrary to global efforts to keep warming below 1.5 degrees to avoid catastrophic climate change. Western Australia is already experiencing significant drying and more frequent and intense fires due to climate change. This is throwing fuel on the fire.

Prof. Peter Newman, Beeliar Group of Professors

“We are extremely concerned that a decision by Western Australia’s first Minister for Climate Action could sanction the release of well over a billion tonnes of carbon pollution, and result in other impacts on the environment and Aboriginal heritage that have not been subject to formal environmental impact assessment. 

Jeff Hansen, Managing Director Sea Shepherd  

We simply cannot allow the Scarborough project to go ahead if our children are to have any hope in a liveable climate. We know the impacts of climate on our ocean, from dying critical ecosystems like our Great Barrier Reef or vast mangrove losses in the north caused by acidification and warming from climate change. We are in a global climate emergency and what we do today will determine the future of humanity.

 Dr Richard Yin, National Secretary, Doctors for the Environment Australia

This project will impact the future health of young Australians.

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