Over 60 scientists & experts call on NT Chief Minister Gunner to honour commitment to net-zero fracking emissions

Over 60 leading scientists and experts have published an open letter in the NT News, co-ordinated by the Australia Institute, calling on Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner to fulfill his commitment that all emission be fully offset or gas fracking should not go ahead.

Chief Minister Gunner has committed to faithfully implement all the recommendations of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory (the Fracking Inquiry) , including the critically important Recommendation 9.8: that there should be no net increase in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions from fracking in the NT.

Key Points:

  • Policies released by the NT Government to date, the Large Emitters Policy and the Draft Offsets Policy, do not require the emissions from burning gas in Australia, known as scope 3 emissions, to be offset despite being a major part of lifecycle emissions in the gas extraction process. The policies also lack any enforceable requirement to offset the remaining emissions, known as scope 1 and 2 emissions.
  • The Fracking Inquiry found shale gas development in the NT could result in around 100 million tonnes of emissions annually, including 40 million tonnes of Australian emissions, which would increase Australia’s emissions by 8 percent at current levels.

In part, the letter reads:

“The Inquiry report makes clear: “the increase in life cycle GHG emissions in Australia from any onshore shale gas produced in the NT must be fully offset.”

“Lifecycle emissions include all emissions from the productions, processing and ultimate combustion of the gas if within Australia, which are known as scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

“Chief Minister Gunner, for you to honour your commitment the NT offset policy must require all lifecycle Greenhouse Gas emissions in Australia from any onshore gas produced in the NT including scope 3 emissions to be fully and genuinely offset.

“If this cannot be achieved, a critical recommendation has failed and fracking should not proceed.”

“Given the seriousness of global heating, shale gas development in the NT should not be going ahead at all. But if it does, it is essential the Chief Minister fulfills his commitment to ensure there is no net increase in Australia’s emissions from fracking in the NT,” said Mark Ogge, Principal Adviser on Climate & Energy at the Australia Institute.

“Enforceable requirements to fully and genuinely offset all lifecycle emissions, including emissions from burning the gas, with official Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) would be needed.

“If enforceable emissions offsets cannot be achieved, for all emissions in the gas extraction process, a critical recommendation of the NT Fracking Enquiry has failed and fracking should not proceed.”

Further quotes attributable to signatories:

Professor Lesley Hughes, Climate Councillor and former IPCC lead author said:

“The latest IPCC report is telling us we need to cut emissions sharply if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Allowing gas development in the NT is throwing fuel on the fire and will lead to more frequent and extreme heatwaves, fires and flooding, and many other terrible consequences for Australia including the NT. Offsets are not a real solution. We should not be allowing fracking to go ahead in the first place.”

Professor Ian Lowe AO FTSE, Emeritus Professor, Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University said:

“With climate change escalating and the world moving away from fossil fuels, it would be a grave mistake to open up massive new sources of greenhouse gas like the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin. Offsets are a very poor substitute for keeping fossil fuels in the ground, but it would be appalling if the Government is even trying to avoid requiring the companies involved to offset their emissions.

“Scope 3, or combustion emissions, are absolutely a part of lifecycle emissions and attempting to ignore these is simply dishonest.”

Greg Mullins, Founder, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action; Former Commissioner Fire & Rescue NSW; Former President Australasian Fire & Emergency Service Authorities Council, said:
“Allowing enormous new fossil fuel projects like this is irresponsible and just pours fuel on the fire of climate change. It results in enormous blowback. We can expect ever more devastating fires in the Northern Territory, in Australia and around the world. As fires worsen and fire seasons get longer, resources will be more and more stretched. We will all suffer the consequences.”

Professor Matthew England, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, said:

“The latest IPCC report emphasizes the urgency of cutting our carbon emissions quickly. To open up a massive gas basin that could result in a vast increase in emissions is plainly irresponsible. Australia and the Northern Territory are particularly vulnerable to climate change, it is imperative that we keep fossil fuels in the ground to secure a decent climate future.”

Will Steffen, Climate Scientist at Australian National University, said:

“Most fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. There is absolutely no carbon budget left for emissions that would result from developing new oil and gas fields like the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory. Every action we take now counts and allowing shale gas development in the Northern Territory is a big step in the wrong direction.”

Professor Hilary Bambrick, environmental epidemiologist from Queensland University of Technology, said:

“Climate change has a devastating impact on people’s health, such as respiratory illness from inhaling smoke from fires, the serious health effects of increasing heatwaves or injury from severe storms and flooding” says

“It’s not just gas-fueled climate change that is a public health concern, there are also direct health consequences of gas extraction and burning. Whether it’s contaminated water and air pollution for communities nearby the mines, or deadly air from burning gas in our homes, gas is bad for our health.”

“Expanding gas mining is both dangerous and unnecessary. Choosing to increase greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas fields in the NT is deeply irresponsible”

Professor John Quiggin, VC Senior Research Fellow, School of Economics, University of Queensland, said:

“The time for gas as a transition fuel has already passed.  The demand for gas consistent with a sustainable path to net zero emissions can be met from existing resources.  As the International Energy Ageny has observed, there is no role for development of new coal, oil or gas resources, such as those in the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory. The need for fracking implies that any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from using gas rather than oil or coal as a fuel will be largely or wholly offset by methane leakage”

Related documents

full open letter