WA watchdog in climate emissions back-down

WA's environmental watchdog has issued new draft emissions guidelines for major projects following backlash from the oil and gas industry.
WA's environmental watchdog has issued new draft emissions guidelines for major projects following backlash from the oil and gas industry.

RESOURCES companies would only need to “reasonably and practicably” avoid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for new projects under watered-down draft guidelines issued by Western Australia’s environmental watchdog.

The Environmental Protection Authority had recommended earlier this year that all emissions-intensive projects should be carbon neutral.

The EPA was forced to rescind its guidelines in March after an uproar from the oil and gas industry, which warned tens of billions of dollars worth of new LNG projects were in jeopardy and complained the body hadn’t done enough consultation.

Federal government ministers also railed against the recommendation, described by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann as “crazy”.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

On Monday, the EPA issued new draft advice which it said had been shaped by almost 7000 submissions received during a public consultation period.

Proponents of major greenhouse gas emitting projects will need to show how they can “reasonably and practicably avoid, reduce, and offset emissions to contribute to the state’s aspiration of net zero emissions by 2050”.

“In the nine months since the EPA released its initial guidance, much has changed in the public discourse about the impact climate change is having on our environment,” EPA chair Tom Hatton said.

“Encouragingly, some Australian business leaders in the resources, aviation and other corporate sectors have announced their commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, which we welcome as a step in the right direction towards prioritising the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The backdown was welcomed by the state’s peak mining lobby, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy.

“Today’s draft guideline clearly acknowledges the need to assess new proposals on a case by case basis on their merits, which is something CME advocated for in our submission earlier this year,” chief executive Paul Everingham said.

Premier Mark McGowan said the EPA’s initial process “wasn’t satisfactory” and the new guidelines reflected better engagement.

“We all know that climate change is real and we all want Australia to be part of a solution,” he told reporters.

“We want to make sure that community, industry, environmental and conservation groups are all part of that solution.”

The final guidelines will be released in March.