Western Australia will consider legislating its net-zero emissions target but the Premier has dismissed calls to rule out new major oil and gas projects.
WA has an aspiration to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but there is no legislative requirement on big polluters to show how they will offset the environmental impact of their major projects.
Premier Mark McGowan said his government would consider incorporating the target into legislation amid warnings a dramatic reduction in carbon pollution is needed over the next decade.
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday night said the world was expected to warm 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels in the early 2030s.
“Legislation is one of the things we will look at,” Mr McGowan said on Tuesday.
“That would obviously bind future governments but this is the way the world is going. This is the way Australia needs to go.”
But Mr McGowan said calls for an end to new major oil and gas developments, such as Woodside’s $16.2 billion proposed Scarborough project, were oversimplified and would result in major disruption to the state’s power supplies.
He said it was better to rely on gas than coal, as in other states, while describing renewables as the fastest-growing sector of the energy system.
The McGowan government is considering further approvals for the Scarborough project, which the Conservation Council of WA claims would produce an additional 1.6 billion tonnes of emissions, “equivalent to building 15 new coal power stations”.
“If they can offset emissions, which they are working towards, that will be an important component of any sort of approval,” Mr McGowan told ABC radio.
CCWA director Piers Verstegen said approving Scarborough would undermine WA’s push to achieve net-zero emissions.
“The IPCC has shown how Australia is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change so we must be at the forefront of taking action, not adding fuel to the fire by with giant new fossil fuel developments like Scarborough,” he said.
Woodside is aiming to achieve net-zero direct emissions by 2050 or sooner and has set targets of 15 per cent reduction by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.
The company says the Scarborough project has been subject to extensive review and would deliver one of the lowest-carbon LNG sources in Australia.