The Guardian • Issue #2096

GREEN NOTES

Woodside’s Carbon Offset Con

Would you believe it, Woodside has a Climate Transition Action Plan!

“2023 was a strong emissions performance year for our facilities,” says the plan. “We do not expect improvement of gross emissions like this every year: for example, from 2024 to the start-up of the Sangomar facility in Senegal … is expected to increase gross emissions for a period. This is why our utilisation of carbon credits as offsets is an important stabiliser, so we are able to reduce our net emissions consistently, notwithstanding operational fluctuations and while our asset decarbonisation plans build momentum.”

Woodside established a Carbon Business in 2018 in order to develop a portfolio of carbon credits and expertise in managing “carbon credit integrity.” Woodside has invested more than $150 million in this business – $100 million of that on the purchase of carbon credits. In other words, it has spent $100 million on “neutralising” or claiming to reduce its net emissions. These are just the greenhouse gases emitted by its projects, and do not include the millions of tonnes more when its fossil fuels are burnt.

One carbon credit supposedly represents a tonne of emissions avoided, reduced, or removed outside Woodside’s facilities. Carbon credits can be purchased from other entities that have reduced their emissions thus resulting with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality. Other carbon credits are obtained by avoidance or reduction of emissions by such means as renewable energy production. They can also be obtained by through mitigation of toxic methane emissions leaked during the production of liquid natural gas, waste management, forest protection, or reforestation.

Woodside purchases carbon credits, and estimates it will pay more than US$80 a tonne for CO2 equivalent emissions in 2024. Its offsets include planting 2.7 million mixed biodiverse seedlings in Western Australia, and the restoration of up to 7,000 hectares of mangroves in Senegal. It expects to receive up to 1.4 million carbon credits from the latter project over 30 years. In other words, a licence to produce 1.4 million additional tonnes of emissions while greenwashing those toxic gases.

As carbonbrief.org reports, “Decades of countries trading carbon offsets has had a negligible impact on emissions, and likely even increased them. They have also been linked to Indigenous people being forced from their land and other human rights abuses.” Research published by Research Square states that offset projects achieved considerably lower emissions reductions than officially claimed. “We estimate that only 12 per cent of the total volume of existing credits constitute real emissions reductions.”

Carbon offsets are a con, an excuse to keep polluting. They are not a substitute for the rapid phasing out of fossil fuels which is required for the survival of humanity.

Workers and their trade unions have an important role to play in tackling companies such as Woodside and the urgent phasing out of fossil fuels. Trade union representatives sit on the boards of industry funds. Transparency about where super funds invest is the first step towards redirecting investments to ethical investments. Likewise for banks.

Market Forces has carried out extensive research into the role of super funds as well as banks in financing these corporations. Is your bank or super fund investing your savings in greenwash or ethically? Write to them! Ask them where they invest. You can also write to your trade union and ask for your representatives to inform members of where their funds are invested. For more information, check out marketforces.org.au.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More