The Guardian • Issue #2068


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2068

Anna Pha

Australia is a contracting party to the Convention on the Prevention of Maritime Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matter, or London Protocol, which came into force in 1975. Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter. In 2009 it was amended to enable the export of carbon dioxide (CO2) streams for the purpose of carbon sequestration, referred to as carbon capture and storage (CCS), in sub-seabed geological formations. Labor’s Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023, currently before Parliament, seeks to legalise the shipment of Australia’s CO2 offshore – a form of climate colonialism.

If passed the bill would give the go-ahead to Santos’ plans to establish a CCS project in its Bayu-Undan gas field 250km south of East Timor to receive CO2 from gas projects in Australia. It carries enormous risks to the marine environment. Any leakages could result in acidification of the ocean and harm to marine ecology on which climate and humanity are so dependent.

As Independent Monique Ryan told Parliament: “The various safety and regulatory frameworks involved are not present in this bill. The bill fails to stipulate compliance requirements necessary for the minister to grant a carbon dioxide export permit. It requires no environmental impact assessments to be undertaken for carbon dioxide import or export or for marine geoengineering. It includes no regulations around the circumstances of carbon dioxide transport. It sets no expectations regarding the regulatory capacity and readiness of destination countries to create and maintain adequate environmental protections.”

“I also note that both offshore gas projects and carbon capture and storage have implications for the cultural practices of traditional owners on sea country. These implications are also not addressed in this bill.”

As previously reported (Green Notes Guardian #2060) large scale CCS has not proven successful. For example, Chevron’s Gorgon emissions have been rising while storage of CO2 has declined as it has hit numerous problems. Grant Hauber, in a report for the Independent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis says that the two Norwegian projects “cast doubt on whether the world has the technical prowess, strength of regulatory oversight, and unwavering multi-decade commitment of capital and resources” to keep C02 permanently sequestered. Norway is considered the “gold standard” of CCS.

“CCS and the global trade of CO2 streams are crucial to the gas industry’s global strategy to gain social licence by appearing to act on climate whilst simultaneously opening up new fossil fuel projects against the explicit advice of bodies such as the International Energy Agency and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). This bill aims to facilitate the greenwashing of fossil fuel expansion plans in Australia,” Ryan said.

It is not only being pushed by the fossil fuel sector as a cover to expand CO2 emissions but, with the view of making millions of dollars out of trading carbon credits on global markets.

The Australian Greens and ‘teal’ independents are opposed to the bill. Fossil fuels should be phased out in a just and planned manner.

The other part of the bill, “Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change” will be covered in the next Green Notes.

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