A new expert analysis reveals operational emissions produced from the eight major fossil fuel projects approved by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) since the authority was created will total nearly 90 million tonnes - the same amount the NSW Government's Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap is expected to abate between now and 2030.
The report, written by Griffith University Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, ultimately finds the Commission has “comprehensively failed to require mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions."
Professor Lowe finds that, based on the most generous overall assessment, the IPC has only implemented conditions that could lead to the abatement of 7.7 million tonnes out of a total of 1,387 million tonnes of all greenhouse emissions from the eight projects (Scope 1, 2 & 3).
While downstream (Scope 3) emissions constitute the lion’s share of greenhouse gases to be released from the eight projects, the report demonstrates that nearly 90Mt of operational emissions (Scope 1 & 2) will also occur as direct emissions of methane and carbon dioxide at mining operations and emissions arising indirectly from electricity use.
The report states: “Even if it were considered acceptable to overlook the huge contribution to climate change of Scope 3 emissions from these projects, the Scope 1 and 2 emissions add up to 89 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent; that is nearly 20 per cent of Australia’s total national emissions last year. Reducing or, ideally, eliminating those emissions would be a significant contribution to our obligation to help slow climate change."
Consideration of conditions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is a requirement of all IPC decisions about coal mining and coal seam gas projects in New South Wales.
However Professor Lowe’s report shows the IPC has recommended a hodgepodge of vague, mostly unenforceable, conditions that have done little or nothing to abate operational emissions despite measures being available to prevent them.
Professor Lowe said, “This report reveals the NSW Government is comprehensively failing to tackle direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions in the mining sector.
“The downstream (Scope 3) emissions from burning coal mined in New South Wales is worsening the climate crisis and harming the interests of the people of this state.
“Even if you accept the government’s argument that these emissions are not NSW’s responsibility, it’s utterly irresponsible to also do next to nothing to mitigate almost 90 million tonnes of operational emissions produced locally from these new mining projects.
“As well, if Santos intends to sell its Narrabri produced gas domestically, as it claims, then that would add a further 94 million tonnes of scope 3 emissions to NSW’s emissions output.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Nic Clyde said, “It’s bizarre that the NSW Government is developing an Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap which aims to abate 90Mt of carbon emissions, while at the same time approving the release of almost 90Mt in operational emissions from new coal and gas mining in NSW.
“Positive initiatives like the Roadmap will be fatally undermined if coal mines and gasfields are allowed to pollute as they always have.
“The NSW Government has nowhere to hide on this - they may eschew responsibility for downstream emissions, but they admit squarely that operational emissions are their responsibility to regulate, and yet they’re doing virtually nothing about it.
“We’re calling for the NSW Government to step up and urgently implement strict controls on all existing fossil fuel projects in NSW to limit operational emissions, using the abatement technologies that are available to do so.
“The people of NSW should not be left bearing all the costs of climate change in the form of devastating bushfires, droughts and heatwaves, while the mining industry pollutes and profits with abandon.”
“A cosy relationship exists between coal companies and the NSW Government where the government pretends to set meaningful conditions to reduce emissions and coal companies pretend to implement them.
“We urgently need real, measurable and enforceable action to drive down the huge volumes of greenhouse gases produced in NSW in the process of mining coal and gas.”
The report is available to read here.