The Guardian • Issue #2062

Fossil fuels to the bitter end

Photo: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert – (CC0).

If the massive amounts of undergrowth resulting from record rainfalls and flooding during La Niña dry out with an El Niño, Australia is set for a catastrophic bushfire season. Climate experts are predicting hotter and drier weather to come with much of the east coast of Australia and previously unaffected areas at risk.

The Royal Commission into the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires heard that 24 million hectares were lost, 3000 homes burnt, 33 lives lost and an estimated three billion animals killed. In addition, a further 450 people died through the effects of bushfire smoke.

The response of governments to the Black Summer bushfires and then the 2022 catastrophic floods has been disgraceful. People are still living in shipping containers, tents, caravans, and other makeshift housing. The trauma goes on.

Governments are unwilling to spend on reparations, on buy-backs of homes, or to address the corrupt planning systems of local and state governments. These are short-sighted and cruel savings.

Governments are also unwilling to tackle the fossil fuel lobby and phase out fossil fuel production. Australia is one of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers with government budgets still heavily reliant on fossil fuel exports.


The Albanese government’s legislated target of 43 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is a hoax, a dangerous stunt to convince the public that Labor is serious about climate change.

Despite all the statements by the United Nations, International Energy Agency (IEA), and other leading bodies that new fossil fuel projects are incompatible with global temperature goals, governments continue to approve new projects.

According to the latest Australian Government Resources and Energy Major Projects (REMP) list, 116 new coal and gas projects are expected to begin production before 2030. These projects are set to run from anywhere between 20 and 50 years!

In the words of the Australia Institute report: “If all proceed as estimated, they will add 4.8 billion tonnes of emissions to the atmosphere by 2030. The […] Safeguard Mechanism would reduce emissions from these projects by just 86 million tonnes – less than two per cent of the total emissions. Worse, the Safeguard Mechanism would provide legitimacy to new fossil fuel projects, weakening state-imposed conditions and making the projects’ development more likely,” (New Fossil Fuel Projects in Australia 2023).

As Richard Denniss of The Australia Institute says, “Labor’s safeguard mechanism does more to save the fossil fuel industry than it does the planet.”

At the local level the stakes are high for the health of communities affected by pollutants. Prime agricultural land, clean water supplies, Indigenous art thousands of years old, sacred sites, and endangered species are all at risk. Stakes are high for the wider community and the planet.


“The Barossa to Darwin LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] project looks more like a CO2 emissions factory with an LNG by-product,” is how the dirty and destructive project has been described.

Tiwi Islands and Larrakia Traditional Owners have lodged formal complaints alleging the big four Australian banks – ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, and Westpac – and other financiers breached their human rights commitments by participating in a $1.5 billion loan to Santos, related to the Barossa gas project the company is trying to develop off the Northern Territory coast.

“[Woodside’s] Burrup Hub would be the most polluting project ever to be developed in Australia, delivering some of the world’s dirtiest LNG for up to 50 years. With estimated total emissions of over 6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution across its lifetime, the proposal has profound implications for the global climate across generations,” says Piers Verstegen, Director, Conservation Council Western Australia.

Woodside Energy, Australia’s largest gas producer, plans to extract 20-25 trillion cubic feet of gas, primarily for export as liquid natural gas, from its Burrup Hub in north-west Western Australia.

Climate scientist Joëlle Gergis writing in The Saturday Paper (1st July 2023): “We can already see the destruction caused by the 1.2 degrees of global warming that has already played out. We don’t need to use our imaginations to grasp the impacts of a rapidly destabilising climate – the evidence is all around us.

“So let me say it once again – the relentless burning of fossil fuels is cooking our planet. We are destabilising the planetary conditions that have existed throughout all of modern human history; we are knowingly unravelling the only life force known to exist in the entire universe.


“So why exactly are we doing this? To be blunt, our political leaders are choosing to support the fossil fuel industry down to the bitter end. It really is as simple as that. Instead of being brave enough to enact policies that will protect the collective good, our leaders are choosing to safeguard the profits of an industry that sells products they know are destroying the planet.” Gergis says.

According to the Office of the Chief Economist, the 116 new or expansionary fossil fuel projects in Australia would cost at least $200 billion.

Since 2016 the Big Four banks have lent $44.4 billion for dirty fossil fuel projects. A number of superannuation funds have made investments in fossil fuels. Some, under pressure from members, are winding them back. But Hostplus’ Balanced option is one of the worst offenders, continuing to make climate wrecking investments.


Cut the flow of dirty dollars! Pressure your bank and superannuation fund to cease funding fossil fuels. To check the investments of your super fund visit (superannuation). For more on bank lending see GREEN NOTES Guardian #2056.

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