McGowan mulls legislating net-zero target

WESTERN Australian premier Mark McGowan has said he is considering legislating a net-zero by 2050 emissions reduction target in the wake of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
McGowan mulls legislating net-zero target McGowan mulls legislating net-zero target McGowan mulls legislating net-zero target McGowan mulls legislating net-zero target McGowan mulls legislating net-zero target

WA premier Mark McGowan at APPEA 2021

Mark Tilly

Senior Journalist

Mark Tilly

The WA Labor government has committed to a net-zero by 2050 ‘aspiration', however he told the ABC that they could look at legislating the target. 

"That's one of the considerations that we're examining it," McGowan said. 

"That would obviously bind future governments, but this is the way the world is going."

McGowan said "Australia needed to step up in response to climate change".

He was asked whether this would involve halting Woodside Petroleum's Scarborough gas project in the state's north west, and said  the issue was more complex. 

"I realise that a lot of people just say, 'Just stop everything,'" he said.

"If we stop gas in Western Australia, well, basically we shut down a lot of our electricity system, we shut down Alcoa, we shut down a lot of the businesses here." 

Under state regulations, LNG projects must reserve 15% of their gas for domestic use. 

Woodside and its partner BHP are planning to make a final investment decision on Scarborough and Pluto Train 2  expansion project later this year. 

Last week Woodside increased the estimated costs for Scarborough by 5%, going from US$11.4 billion to $12 billion. 

Woodside Petroleum has a net-zero emissions target by 2050, with McGowan noting the company was "moving a long way in the direction of removing emissions". 

In June state environment minister Amber-Jade Sanderson approved Scarborough's greenhouse gas abatement plan which would see emissions from the Pluto LNG project fall by 30% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

However the project has been met with fierce resistance by Western Australia's climate and environmental community who argue that the project would make it impossible to achieve a net-zero emissions by 2050 target. 

The Conservation Council of Western Australia estimates the project would emit 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime. It has also taken Woodside to court arguing that a judicial review for the environmental approvals the company received over a year and a half ago is necessary.

The second train at Pluto represents the only new LNG capacity to be added in Australia, at 5 million tonnes per annum, while other projects such as Santos' Barossa represent brownfield backfill works. 

350 Perth campaigner Anthony Collins said Western Australia was well-placed to transition the state's economy from fossil fuels to renewables as well as to take advantage of its vast supply of lithium, copper and rare earths. 

"This IPCC report shows the need for the WA government to start stepping up in response to climate change," 350 campaigner Anthony Collins said.  

350 has previously documented what it deems to be a "cosy" relationship between the state's oil and gas industry and the Labor government. 

Woodside has argued that the LNG it exports to countries in Asia help reduce global emissions via coal-to-gas switching and was exploring opportunities in exporting hydrogen.  

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association made similar arguments responding to the IPCC report today, saying natural gas offers a pathway to developing a local hydrogen industry. 

"Developing a home-grown hydrogen industry also means a bright future for natural gas and the hundreds of thousands of jobs across Australia that depend on our industry," APPEA deputy chief Damian Dwyer said.