Forecasts for fossil fuel production and exports – good for mining companies, bad for the climate

by Rod Campbell

The latest forecast for gas and coal exports show no sign of any shift away from fossil fuels

The March 2023 Resources and Energy quarterly update has been released by the Department of Industry and the forecasts for coal and gas production and exports will have mining executives will be breathing easy, unlike the rest of us.

In 2022, Australia exported 179 million tonnes of thermal coal and 161 million tonnes of metallurgical coal, for a total of 339 million tonnes. That was less than any year since 2011-12, but it is not the beginning of a trend. The Australian Government is expecting to export MORE coal in the future, with the forecast in 2028 hitting 367 million tonnes, up 8% on last year. That this will be just before the world is meant to reach its Paris Agreement targets highlights how much work needs to be done for Australia to make any meaningful reduction in the level of carbon emissions that originate from our fossil fuels.

To put this in a bitter historic context, total Australian coal exports in 2028 are expected to be 45% HIGHER than when Kevin Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2007-08. Even more shameful is that thermal coal exports, in 2028 will be 70% higher than they were in 2007-08.

And while we’re forecast to produce every so slightly less gas in 2027-28 (157 million cubic meters) than we did in 2022 (163mcm), production has still basically quadrupled since the Rudd era, with no end in sight. The opening of the Gladstone LNG terminal not only facilitated a massive increase in gas production, but it linked Australia’s east coast gas market to the world market and higher prices… forever. Almost all of the increased production since 2014 has been exported, which has allowed gas companies to pretend that there is a domestic gas shortage.

The passing of the Safeguard Mechanism last week was a needed but small step towards climate reform, but there is absolutely no sign that the Australian Government is preparing for a future without fossil fuels, and these forecasts highlight how much work is left to be done for Australia to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

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