My concerns about the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission by Alec Roberts
26 May 2020 Senate Select Committee on COVID-19
My concerns about the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission
Dear Senators, The effectiveness of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) in assisting the government mitigate the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is being compromised by perceived conflicts of interest, a pro-gas agenda, a lack of transparency, and inability for the public to have input into the process. Gas is not the mooted transition fuel to a low carbon economy and gas industry connections in the NCCC may compromise the opportunity for a renewable energy led economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
As part of the Australian Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister announced on 25 March 2020 the “creation of a new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) that will coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.” “The Commission will ensure the Government receives the most comprehensive advice to meet the challenges ahead to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus and help build a bridge to recovery.”
I am very concerned with the pro-gas agenda of the Prime Minister’s hand-picked National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC). I’m concerned that the potential conflicts of interests and the networks of the gas-linked Commissioners will influence their advice. The Covid-19 Commission needs to be transparent and publish the details of their industry links and dealings.
Recently the Commission chair Neville Power stated that a $2 billion liquid ammonia plant at Narrabri, proposed by Santos and Perdaman Industries, and proposed to be fuelled by Santos’ proposed Narrabri Gas Project, ‘tops the list’ of ventures that the NCCC will back. The Commission chair has also mooted the west-east gas pipeline from the North West Shelf previously rejected by the federal government. Furthermore, a leaked NCCC report calls for Australian taxpayers to underwrite gas industry expansion.
Several of the NCCC members have strong links to the fossil fuel industry, and yet there is no publicly available conflict of interest register, no published diary to see who the Commission are meeting with, and no opportunities for the community to have a say. Specifically:
The Chair, Neville Power, is Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair of Strike Energy which is seeking to exploit gas reserves in WA and SA. Not surprisingly he is putting forward a project to construct a gas pipeline from WA to the east coast. If that is not conflict of interest, then what is? Even if he temporarily steps down as Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair of Strike Energy, he currently holds over 12.6 million shares in the company with a market value of over $1.6 million dollars.
Catherine Tanna is the former Managing Director of Queensland Gas Company which became the BG Group before it was acquired by Royal Dutch Shell. Catherine is currently the Managing Director of EnergyAustralia, one of the biggest polluters in Australia and owner of several Gas Power Plants. EnergyAustralia’s parent company CLP Group is a 20% stakeholder in the proposed Narrabri Gas Project. Here is what appears to be another conflict of interest.
Andrew Liveris is a special advisor to the NCCC and a former adviser to the NT government on the development of the gas industry there. Andrew Liveris is also a board member of Saudi Aramco (an Oil and Gas Company).
James Fazzino is on the Board of APA Group which owns and operates the largest interconnected gas transmission network across Australia and several Gas Power Plants. James Fazzino is also the former Managing Director and CEO of Incitec Pivot Ltd (one of Australia’s largest consumers of gas). APA Group is seeking to build a pipeline connecting the Narrabri gas project to the Moomba Sydney Pipeline and another connecting the Moomba pipeline to Port Kembla. APA Group has entered into an agreement with Santos to build the pipeline to deliver gas from the proposed Narrabri Gas Project to market. As noted above, the Narrabri gas fields have been put forward as a key project by the NCCC. Again, this is appearing to be a key conflict of interest.
The NCCC needs a transparent conflict of interest register of all members, including special advisors. Furthermore, all findings and advice from the NCCC should be made in the best interests and in full view of the Australian people.
It is unlikely that a gas led recovery will deliver the goods for an economic recovery. The industry is not a large employer and pays little or no tax. Analysis by The Australia Institute noted that the gas sector was one of the worst options to choose for mass job creation and that investment in other sectors would create more jobs.
Gas supply on the east coast of Australia has tripled since 2014. However, domestic gas prices have also tripled in the same period. Gas prices in Australia have remained at levels far in excess of international parity prices. Whilst prices have fallen somewhat, they have not fallen by nearly as much as those in Asia or Europe. Consequently, gas has become uncompetitive as a fuel source for power generation in Australia and demand for gas-powered generation has fallen by 41% since 2014. Not surprising that at present there are no committed new investments in gas-fired power generation. Furthermore, as over 70% of Australian gas is exported as LNG, increases in supply are unlikely to affect to domestic prices into the near future and any potential flow on effect to the Australian economy.
Methane leaks from natural gas production can make the process nearly as carbon intensive as coal. The CSIRO report “Fugitive Greenhouse Gas emissions from Coal Seam Gas Production in Australia” noted that fugitive emissions for Natural Gas in Australia as a whole are estimated to be 1.5% of gas extracted, whereas if fugitive emissions exceeded 2% then the emissions intensity would match that of coal (due to the fact that methane is 86 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 over 20 years). They also noted that unconventional gas industry such as Coal Seam Gas would result in greater levels of fugitive emissions than the conventional gas industry.
Natural gas has often been touted as the “transition fuel” for the electricity sector to replace coal’s greenhouse gas emissions and eventually paving the way for an emissions free future for Australia. It is simply too expensive and too emissions intensive to be so.
In the case of the Narrabri Gas project supported by the NCCC, the proposed Narrabri Gas project will unlikely contribute to a reduction in gas prices, as gas extraction from this field will be more expensive than other existing fields in the eastern gas region. Moreover, the Narrabri Gas field has very high levels of CO2 which will be vented into the atmosphere as part of gas extraction adding to the methane fugitive emissions from the implementation of this project.
The CSIRO GenCost report indicated that renewables (wind and solar photovoltaic) with storage (such as pumped hydro) were now cheaper than gas for electricity generation in Australia. Furthermore, the current installation of synchronous condensers in South Australia and other eastern states to increase system strength and stabilise the electricity network will reduce the need for gas-fired generators acting in the role of synchronous generators as more renewables enter the grid. As such, it is expected that demand for gas for electricity generation will decline in the future.
The IMF stated that all economic stimulus post pandemic should have clear aspects and focus on decarbonisation, long term cost benefit, that there should be jobs and clear accountability from an emissions point of view what these projects will do. Expansion of the gas industry is unlikely to realise these important objectives.
This month the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that each country’s economic recovery packages post COVID-19 should be aligned to the Paris agreement to best meet agreed climate and sustainability objectives. A gas led recovery would not achieve this. They noted we need to look beyond fossil fuel candidates and look to new investment in job creating renewable energy and energy efficiencies that will decrease costs of energy and boost the economy. IEA also highlighted the massive opportunity open to us now in laying down the foundations for the huge technology driven growth in electric vehicles, batteries, and zero emission hydrogen-producing electrolysers.
I’m concerned about gas industry connections in the NCCC potentially compromising the opportunity for a renewable energy-led recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
The consensus among economists is that we face long term financial impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic. We need long term, socially, economically and environmentally sustainable solutions to create the pathway out of the current economic downturn. Expansion of the gas industry is unlikely to achieve this. Monies and efforts are best spent in other areas.
Furthermore, it is very important that the public have a say on the economic recovery efforts after Covid-19. There needs to be a process to allow diversity of industries to have a meaningful voice in the next steps for Australia. Our local communities and regional areas have so much to offer.
Thank you for taking the time to read my submission.
Q&A Modern Monetary Theory with Prof Bill Mitchell
by Newcastle Climate Change Response
Newcastle Climate Change Response is very excited to facilitate a Q&A session with the amazing Bill Mitchell on Modern Monetary Theory and how peering through this lens may be useful to ensure a socially just and environmentally sound economic recovery from Covid-19 and how NCCRs and others may act to make this happen. If you don’t know what I’m on about, check this one out and then join us tomorrow from 4-5 with questions a ready!
Recording of Q&A
A recording of the Q&A session is below (recording starts shortly into the Q&A session).
To download the recording select the vertical ellipsis (3 dots) and select "Download".
17/04/2020 Dear Professor Samuel and Independent Review Panel, Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission into the 2019-2020 Independent Review of the EPBC Act. I live in the Lake Macquarie / Newcastle region in NSW. I work for the University of Newcastle, School of Environment and Life Sciences as a Project Officer and previously worked at the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment. My current role involves conducting an environmental assessment for Norfolk Island. In a volunteer capacity, I am a committee member of several organisations including the Hunter Environmental Institute, Richmond Vale Rail Trail Inc., Newcastle Climate Change Response, Hunter Innovation and Science Hub, and the Clean Energy Association of Newcastle and Surrounds. I am also a member of the Charlestown chapter of The Wilderness Society. I am involved in what could be termed environmental outreach, informing the public on environmental information, news and activities through newsletters, conducting seminars, events and conferences. I have helped run the annual Mined Land Rehabilitation Conference and the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival over the last 4 years. On the ground I am involved with Landcare work for the Richmond Vale Rail Trail. The EPBC Act is 20 years old and has failed to address the loss in biodiversity and extinction prevention of plants and animals or habitat destruction within Australia. The Act is complex and unwieldy and is in drastic need of reform. The Act needs to address the environmental threats that we face including climate change and habitat destruction through land clearing. Rather than amending and modernising the Act, a new Act should be drafted with biodiversity conservation and environmental protection being the key drivers. The new Act should provide government leadership on environmental protection, include safeguards for plant and animal extinction including stopping habitat destruction of endangered species, and to increase resilience of plants and animals and their habitats to key challenges such as climate change. The principle of Ecologically Sustainable Development is a key aspect with the Act and should be modernised and strengthened to include principles of continuous improvement and non-regression of environmental standards, goals, and policies; achieve high levels of environmental protection through best practices; and increased resilience to climate change and other pressures on the environment. With my involvement with the Mined Land Rehabilitation Conference I have seen the effects of cumulative approvals of mines and mine expansion in the Hunter Valley on the environment, the decreased resilience to change, the health impact on individuals living and working within the area. For example, there is a cumulative issue relating to air quality in the Upper Hunter that needs attention. Average levels of coarse particle pollution in the Hunter Valley have increased at a rate higher than the rest of NSW. Air quality in the local area has been deteriorating over time, reaching 470 air quality alerts in 2019 prior to the bushfires. The top three for PM10 particulate levels of air pollution in NSW are in the local area. This air pollution contributes to heart disease, stroke, deaths, diabetes, low birth weight for babies, restricted lung growth in children, lung cancer in non-smokers, asthma and emphysema. A planned expansion of the Glendell Mine this year in the area would exacerbate an already dire set of circumstances with respect to air quality and health issues in the local area. However, the mine expansion went ahead as cumulative impacts are not considered in planning laws. The Act needs to explicitly consider cumulative impacts of past, present and future developments and decisions. The use of strategic environmental assessments may assist in assessing cumulative impacts. The impacts of climate change on the environment are significant and severe. The present scientific consensus is that the earth's climate is warming due to human activity (https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/), and the negative impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions are measurable globally and nationally. The government is responsible for the environment, the health and wellbeing of its citizens, and the financial security of the nation. As we see the impact of increased carbon emissions, we also find evidence of the impact on Australian native wildlife, the Australian people and the wealth of the nation as noted by the recent catastrophic bushfires and devastating drought. To ensure the health and resilience of the Australian environment and its people in the face of such challenges, laws and processes will need to be enacted to mitigate climate change and address the impacts of climate change, extreme weather and drought. This would include sustainably managing environments affected by climate change and rebuilding and restoring ecosystems burnt by bushfires. Although climate change is the most significant environmental threat it is not mentioned anywhere in the Act. The Act should address and regulate the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. For example, following the recent catastrophic bushfires, koala populations are at a crisis point and it is imperative that urgent action be taken to ensure the survival of this iconic species within south eastern Australia. Climate change is predicted to affect koala habitat conditions and cause more severe weather conditions (such as the recent severe drought and catastrophic bushfires) which will impact koala survival rates. Climate change is predicted to affect koala habitat by altering the structure and chemical composition of koala food trees, changing the composition of plant communities, and changing the range of important habitat species. In my local area, changing sea levels as a result of climate change will impact on low lying priority habitat, within the Port Stephens area and Stockton Bight, further fragmenting habitat stands. The ability of Koalas to migrate due to the effects of climate change are impacted by the connectivity across the landscape. Particular attention is required to remove or mitigate the barriers to connectivity and to preserve and enhance existing connectivity, such as undertaken in the Hunter Valley with the Great Eastern Ranges initiative. For example, regional and local conservation planning should consider protecting existing connectivity and enhancing connectivity of koala habitat patches that are within 100m of another patch. Climate change considerations need to be included in the Act to identify and protect habitat and corridors that will support species resilience to more extreme heat and natural disasters, even if there is no population in those areas now. Matters of national environmental significance (triggers) are an essential part of the Act that trigger assessment processes under the Act. These triggers should be retained and expanded to include vulnerable ecological communities (alongside other threatened specifies and ecological communities), significant land-clearing activities, significant water resources (in addition to coal seam gas and large coal impacts)., the National Reserve System, significant greenhouse gas emissions and nationally important ecosystems (key biodiversity areas and areas of high conservation value). Any biodiversity offsetting must be based on clear scientific principles and limits and maintaining or improving ecological outcomes. The government should avoid lowest common denominator standards that rely on the market such as with the NSW system. The Act should not allow ‘offsetting’ critical habitat, endangered species and ecological communities. Furthermore, offset land should be of similar habitat (like-for-like), should provide an improvement for the impacted species or ecological community, must comply with the provision of no net loss of biodiversity, must be protected in perpetuity, should be consistent with any species recovery plans, cannot be substituted by the payment of money, such as into a Biodiversity Conservation Fund, and should be a last resort following efforts made to mitigate impacts. Offset land must be an additional protection. For example, a developer cannot use existing parkland to offset koala habitat such as was proposed by Lendlease near Campbelltown in NSW last year. From my personal experience with the Mine Rehab Conference, Mine Rehab land is unlikely to be an effective offset (in line with like-for-like habitat, no net loss of biodiversity, etc) and should be excluded. The former NSW Office of Environment and Heritage noted that “there is no certainty that functioning ecosystems can be restored to their original value through rehabilitation” and questioned whether restoration of biodiversity on a degraded site was even possible. Offset land must be secured prior to development / land clearing going ahead. For example, after seven years and multiple time extensions, Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine has failed to secure over 5000 hectares of biodiversity offsets for their clearing the critically endangered box gum grassy woodland ecological community near Narrabri and is now in court. Only 5% of this iconic woodland still exists and provides habitat for the Regent Honeyeater, Superb Parrot and Squirrel Glider. Ecosystem services underpin human existence, health and prosperity, with biodiversity central to the production of ecosystems services. In recognising the intrinsic importance of the environment to Australia, the Act needs to acknowledge the value of ecosystem services. The assessment and value of ecosystem services also needs to be included in decision making to ensure potentially hidden social costs or benefits are considered. To ensure government accountability and effective decision making, greater public transparency is required together with effective community consultation and the right of appeal. Decisions should be informed by community engagement (including public submissions) and the reasoning behind the decisions documented and provided back to the community. Specifically, the Act should provide information on policies, policy changes, and specific assessments, decisions and actions to the public in a timely and accessible manner. It should not be necessary to undertake lengthy and expensive FOI requests to get the reasoning behind decisions. The right of appeal should extend to the courts with judicial review of government decisions such that is available in the states. Similarly interested parties should be able to seek merits review of decisions. To facilitate reform and effectiveness of the new Act, a national ecosystem assessment should be undertaken to establish a baseline and determine indicators of success / failure. National ecosystem assessments could then be undertaken periodically to help measure, maintain, and improve environmental outcomes. To improve governance, a new national Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) needs to be established as the chief environmental regulator and to assess and approve projects, monitor compliance and take enforcement action. Furthermore, a new National Sustainability Commission be established to set national environmental goals and standards, coordinate national plans and actions, develop policy responses to current and future environmental impacts and in light of scientific evidence, and publicly report through Parliament each year on the state of the environment, impact of actions and environmental outcomes. The government should be required to respond to these reports. And finally, resourcing has been a constant issue for the effective implementation of the Act. Government funding should be increased to enable this, such as resourcing to enable the effective implementation of environmental protection and restoration, and the listing and conserving of threatened species and ecological communities. Thank you for your consideration of my submission Sincerely, Alec Roberts Chair CLEANaS
Submission to the Draft Koala Habitat Protection Guideline by Alec Roberts
To whom it may concern,
Please accept this letter as my submission to the Draft Koala Habitat Protection Guideline. I consent to the Department making this submission and my name public.
Following the recent catastrophic bushfires, koala populations are at a crisis point and it is imperative that urgent action is taken to ensure the survival of this iconic species within NSW.
Koalas are currently listed as a vulnerable threatened species in NSW, and therefore have a high risk of local extinction in the medium term. In 2016 it was estimated that there remained approximately 36,000 koalas in NSW (representing a decline of 26% over 2 decades). However, other studies suggest much lower numbers. Furthermore, compounding this, more than 24% of koala habitats were within fire-affected areas in eastern NSW with the recent bushfires.
In my area of the Lower Hunter, areas of know Koala Habitat have had an estimated 75% reduction in habitat since European Settlement with commensurate declines in koala population due to habitat clearing. Furthermore, areas of high priority koala habitat are often unprotected, with just over 20 percent within existing formal conservation reserves.
The main threats to Koala populations across the Lower Hunter include:
Fragmentation, degradation and loss of habitat (at both macro and micro scale);
Barriers to habitat connectivity (both natural and manmade);
Predation by dogs;
Disease (e.g. Chlamydia);
Fire (bushfires and control burns); and
Changes in habitat in the Lower Hunter can be attributed to high development pressure and piecemeal planning resulting in isolated fragments of habitat remaining between urban areas. The long-term conservation of koalas is reliant on understanding habitat requirements and population dynamics and incorporating this into urban planning. The Koala SEPP 2019 and the Guideline should provide consistent requirements for development assessment on core koala habitat across the State.
NSW laws do not prohibit the clearing of koala habitat. Despite declining koala numbers and the devastation caused by this summer’s catastrophic bushfires, NSW laws still allow koala habitat to be cleared with approval. Decision makers just need to ensure development approvals are consistent with koala plans of management (if they exist) or these guidelines are considered. For our laws to protect koalas and their habitats, the approval process should not allow important koala habitat to be offset or cleared in exchange for money (as NSW Biodiversity Assessment Method does).
Comprehensive koala plans of management should be mandatory for all councils wherever there is koala habitat with a set completion timeframe. With only 5 LGAs adopting comprehensive koala plans of management since 1995 (including only one from the Lower Hunter) a mandatory approach is required. These plans should be monitored, reviewed and reported publicly on a set and regular timeframe. To assist local councils with these obligations the NSW government should provide incentive and support for councils to develop and maintain these plans. Furthermore, for consistency, the Koala SEPP 2019 should be applicable across the state wherever there is koala habitat.
The Koala SEPP 2019 and the Guideline need to apply to a wider range of developments and activities that can impact on koala habitat that are outside of the domain of local councils including: complying development, major projects (State significant development and State significant infrastructure), Part 5 activities (e.g. activities undertaken by public authorities) and land clearing activities requiring approval under the LLS Act. The NSW planning system, public and private forestry, and land management (land clearing) laws fail to protect koala habitat. The limited application of the Koala SEPP 2019 is unlikely to lead to improved outcomes for koalas.
The threshold of 1 hectare for triggering the Koala SEPP 2019 where a plan is not in place is arbitrary and leaves small koala habitat areas, particularly koala habitat in urban areas, without adequate protection. The one-hectare requirement also contributes to cumulative impacts and can reduce connectivity across the landscape by allowing small patches to be cleared. The threshold should be removed.
Climate change considerations need to be included in the Koala SEPP 2019 and the Guideline to identify and protect habitat and corridors that will support koalas’ resilience to more extreme heat and natural disasters, even if there is no koala population in those areas now.
Climate change is predicted to affect koala habitat condition and cause more severe weather conditions (such as the recent severe drought and catastrophic bushfires) which will impact koala survival rates. Climate change is predicted to affect koala habitat by altering the structure and chemical composition of koala food trees, changing the composition of plant communities, and changing the range of important habitat species.
Changing sea levels as a result of climate change will impact on low lying priority habitat area with Port Stephens area and Stockton Bight affected, further fragmenting habitat stands. The ability of Koalas to migrate due to the effects of climate change are impacted by the connectivity across the landscape. Particular attention is required to remove or mitigate the barriers to connectivity and to preserve and enhance existing connectivity, such as undertaken in the Hunter with the Great Eastern Ranges initiative. For example, regional and local conservation planning should consider protecting existing connectivity and enhancing connectivity of koala habitat patches that are within 100m of another patch.
Koala research findings, and potential application of mitigation measures, should feed back into the Koala SEPP 2019 and the Guideline, as part of a regular review process. In particular, new information should be added to Koala Development Application Maps and Site Investigation Area for Koala Plans of Management Maps to ensure they are current and accurate. The processes for the development and application of these maps needs to be transparent to allow for effective ground-truthing to ensure accuracy.
Regular monitoring and compliance are required to ensure the success of the Koala SEPP and Guideline. Monitoring, review, public reporting and compliance need to be established with a defined and regular timeframe.
To protect koalas, koala habitat must be protected from destruction. The Koala SEPP 2019 at present does not increase the protection for koala habitat. Until our laws are strengthened to truly limit or prohibit the destruction of koala habitat, koala populations and their habitat will continue to be at risk and koala numbers will continue to decline in NSW, possibly to the point of local extinction.
I urge the Department and relevant Ministers to strengthen the Koala SEPP 2019, the Koala Habitat Protection Guideline and provide incentive and support for councils.
Yours sincerely, Alec Roberts Gateshead 2290
I have read the Department's Privacy Statement and agree to the Department using my submission in the ways it describes. I understand this includes full publication on the Department's website of my submission, any attachments, and any of my personal information in those documents and possible supply to third parties such as state agencies, local government and the proponent.
References: Adams-Hosking, C., McAlpine, C., Rhodes, J. R., Grantham, H. S. and Moss, P. T. (2012). "Modelling changes in the distribution of the critical food resources of a specialist folivore in response to climate change." Journal of Conservation Biogeography Diversity and Distributions: 1-14.
NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Report of the Independent Review into the Decline of Koala Populations in Key Areas of NSW, December 2016 above no 6, citing Adams-Hosking, C, McBride, M.F, Baxter, G, Burgman, M, de Villiers, D, Kavanagh, R, Lawler, I, Lunney, D, Melzer, A, Menkhorst, P, Molsher, R, et al. (2016). Use of expert knowledge to elicit population trends for the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Diversity and Distributions, 22(3), 249-262. doi: 10.1111/ddi.12400
Paull, D., Pugh, D., Sweeney, O., Taylor, M, Woosnam, O. and Hawes, W. Koala habitat conservation plan. An action plan for legislative change and the identification of priority koala habitat necessary to protect and enhance koala habitat and populations in New South Wales and Queensland (2019), published by WWF-Australia, Sydney, which estimates koala numbers to be in the range of 15,000 to 25,000 animals. In 2018, the Australian Koala Foundations estimates koala numbers in NSW to be between 11,555 and 16,130 animals, see www.savethekoala.com/our-work/bobs-map-%E2%80%93-koala-populations-then-and-now
Independent member for Warringah , Zalli Steggall has launched her intention to introduce a private members bill to parliament on climate action. If you live in the Shortland electorate and you'd like to let Pat Conroy know that you would like him to support this bill click on the following link https://climateactnow.com.au/, select your electorate, and enter your name and email address. With a little extra energy you could contact Pat directly by email or mail if you would like to make your preferences known to him prior to the bill (Personal emails work the best). Thanks for your support. For those outside the Shortland electorate please contact your local Federal member: Hunter - Joel Fitzgibbon ALP Newcastle - Sharon Claydon ALP Paterson - Meryl Swanson ALP #ClimateActNow
This letter was written requesting support for the Climate Change Bill by Pat Conroy my local Federal member of Parliament:
Pat, Support for Climate Change Bill
The present scientific consensus is that the earth's climate is warming due to human activity (https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/), and the negative impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions are measurable globally and nationally. The government is responsible for the health and wellbeing of its citizens and the financial security of the nation. As we see the impact of increased carbon emissions, we also find evidence of the impact on Australians and the wealth of the nation as noted by the recent catastrophic bushfires and devastating drought.
As one of your constituents, I’m writing to urge you to support the Climate Change Bill that will be introduced into parliament on Monday March 23rd by way of a conscience vote.
I support the proposed Climate Change legislation because I believe it’s vital that we have a national climate change framework that ensures Australia has:
Long-term plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet emissions reduction statutory targets which align with the science and international commitments (Net-zero emissions by 2050);
A positive response to the challenges of climate change that looks to new opportunities, just transitions from legacy industries and addresses generational equity;
Plans for adapting to the effects of climate change, whether that be responding to changing physical conditions or developing progressive international policies; and
Transparent and accountable adaptation and mitigation planning through an independent Climate Change Commission to advise the Government.
There are 20 other countries already with Climate Change framework legislation such as the UK and New Zealand that we could learn and adapt from.
This bill gives Australia the ability to respond as a nation to the risks, challenges and opportunities of climate change and provides a proven legislative framework to lead a transition to a zero-carbon economy. It will provide the business sector with certainty and position Australia to take advantage of the world demand for low emissions technology.
The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action as shown by natural disasters such as the recent bushfires, droughts, and floods. As the costs will increase of these more prevalent and severe disasters as warming increases. The Climate Change Bill aims to protect the Australian economy against these impacts.
I implore you to support the Climate Change Bill.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.
Alec Roberts Gateshead, NSW Project Manager | Chair CLEANaS
Submission on Glendell Continuation Project (part of Mt Owen Complex) by Alec Roberts (thanks to George Woods for the great info supporting this submission) Objection to Project Climate Change The present scientific consensus is that the earth's climate is warming due to human activity (https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/), and the negative impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions are measurable globally and nationally. The government is responsible for the health and wellbeing of its citizens and the financial security of the nation. As we see the impact of increased carbon emissions, we also find evidence of the impact on Australians and the wealth of the nation. NSW Climate Change Policy Framework details NSW Government’s objective to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This long-term objective “sets a clear statement of government’s intent, commitment and level of ambition and sets expectations about future emissions constraints that will help the private sector to plan and act.” The Policy Framework states that the NSW Government will investigate how to embed consideration of climate change mitigation and adaptation across government operations including service delivery, infrastructure, purchasing decisions and regulatory frameworks. Furthermore, it states that Agencies will undertake additional policy investigation for sectors with significant opportunities and risks, including primary industries emissions and adaptation (Department of Primary Industries).
The Glendell Continuation Project will result in 230.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the life of the project. This is in addition to the greenhouse pollution from the rest of the Mount Owen complex.
The assessment admits that the project is consistent with the IPCC’s “high emissions A2 emission trajectory scenario.” This is a shocking admission and all the more shocking that it did not prompt the company to withdraw the proposal. The A2 scenario is projected to result in warming by approximately 3.4C by 2100. As the greenhouse assessment outlines, this scenario is associated with increased maximum temperatures, hot days and severe fire danger days.
This project is not consistent with NSW’s climate change policy, the principle of inter-generational equity nor the public interest, as it clearly assumes failure to meet the Paris Agreement temperature goals and worsening climate change impacts for New South Wales.
Air quality There is a cumulative issue relating to air quality in the Upper Hunter that needs attention. Average levels of coarse particle pollution in the Hunter Valley have increased at a rate higher than the rest of NSW Air quality in the local area has been deteriorating over time, reaching 470 air quality alerts in 2019 prior to the bushfires. The top three for PM10 particulate levels of air pollution in NSW are in the local area. This air pollution contributes to heart disease, stroke, deaths, diabetes, low birth weight for babies, restricted lung growth in children, lung cancer in non-smokers, asthma and emphysema. The expansion will exacerbate an already dire set of circumstances with respect to air quality and health issues in the local area.
The mine assessment admits that most air quality monitoring sites in the vicinity of Glendell Mine have experienced at least one day above the national standards for PM10 particulate pollution in the past seven years and some exceeded annual average thresholds in the last two years. Camberwell and Singleton also exceeded the PM2.5 criterion last year. But the EIS uses a low pollution year, 2014, as its base year, setting background air pollution levels at less than half of the pollution concentrations experienced in the vicinity more recently. Nevertheless, the assessment shows intensification of PM2.5 and PM10 air pollution in Camberwell and surrounding areas.
Water Loss This project further extends mining in a heavily-mined area, exacerbating water loss.
Baseline monitoring has identified water level drawdown within the coal seams due to the cumulative impact of approved activities that surround the proposed Glendell Pit Extension. The Environmental assessment noted “The proposed Glendell Pit Extension will further depressurise the geological strata directly intersected by the mining activities. The Project will create a zone of drawdown around the mining activity where groundwater levels will decline during the mine life. The depressurisation will also create an area of low pressure within the groundwater system centred on the Glendell Pit Extension that will encourage groundwater to flow through coal seams towards the mining area drawing groundwater from the adjacent water sources.”
The mine’s groundwater assessment shows that dramatic drawdown of the coal seam under the Bowman’s Creek alluvium propagates upward into the alluvium and causes drawdown and loss of surface water. This adds to stress already being experienced in the area from other mines, and the groundwater assessment also shows cumulative draw down of over 2 metres in the alluvium during the proposed mining operations.
The NSW Government has introduced a bill to amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (EP&A Act) and the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 (NSW) (Mining SEPP) to prohibit the imposition of conditions of development consent that purport to regulate any impact of the development occurring outside Australia or any impact of development carried out outside Australia and to to remove the specific requirement to consider downstream greenhouse gas emissions in determining a development application for development for the purposes of mining, petroleum production or an extractive industry.
In a nutshell, the New South Wales Government has introduced legislation to prevent the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from Australian coal burned overseas.
I am opposed to legislation to prevent the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from Australian coal, gas and oil burned overseas. Specifically, in “determining a development application for development for the purposes of mining, petroleum production or an extractive industry", the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007 should RETAIN the specific requirement to "consider downstream greenhouse gas emission in determining a development application"
The present scientific consensus is that the earth's climate is warming due to human activity (https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/), and the negative impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions are measurable globally and nationally. The government is responsible for the health and wellbeing of its citizens and the financial security of the nation. As we see the impact of increased carbon emissions, we also find evidence of the impact on Australians and the wealth of the nation.
The Rocky Hill decision was made based on science and fact. In considering the impacts of the Rocky Hill mine and the public interest, Chief Justice Brian Preston held that downstream indirect GHG emissions should be considered in determining the DA, as both direct and indirect GHG emissions (i.e. Scope 1, 2 and 3 emission) contribute to the cumulative impacts of climate change. The Chief Justice indicated that the following factors must be considered:
GHG emissions from the development;
the likely contribution of GHG emissions to climate change;
the consequences of this contribution to climate change; and
other impacts of the development.
This includes ‘downstream emissions’ which included:
the transportation and combustion of coal product from a mine; and
GHG emissions from the combustion of product coal by end users.
Please note that Clause 14 (2) of the Mining SEPP has never been the sole reason a coal mine has been refused. The Rocky Hill and also the Bylong coal projects were both refused primarily because of their local environmental impacts.
Downstream greenhouse gas emission of "mining, petroleum production or an extractive industry" are significant in contributing to global warming. As noted by Professor Will Steffen in the Rocky Hill case “it is one climate system”, the burning NSW coal overseas impacts communities here at home. Emissions from NSW coal are not something that happens outside Australia, they have a deep and lasting impact here at home, as seen recently with the devastating bush fires and severe drought in NSW. You cannot artificially carve out climate impacts from Australian coal on local communities. The impacts of climate change on NSW communities matter. That’s why we all need to take responsibility for those emissions, and it’s appropriate our laws and policy need to reflect that. Furthermore, it is irresponsible to propose blinkering a planning authority from considering one of the environmental impacts of a development, and contrary to the spirit of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and established case law. A decision to remove that requirement would be a retrograde step and inconsistent with a science-based response to managing climate change.
NSW Climate Change Policy Framework details NSW Government’s objective to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This long-term objective “sets a clear statement of government’s intent, commitment and level of ambition and sets expectations about future emissions constraints that will help the private sector to plan and act.” The Policy Framework states that the NSW Government will investigate how to embed consideration of climate change mitigation and adaptation across government operations including service delivery, infrastructure, purchasing decisions and regulatory frameworks. Furthermore, it states that Agencies will undertake additional policy investigation for sectors with significant opportunities and risks, including primary industries emissions and adaptation (Department of Primary Industries). The proposed legislation flies in the face of the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework. It removes the consideration of climate change mitigation from a regulatory framework. It works against Agency policy investigation and development on primary industry emissions and adaptation. Furthermore, it sets the wrong expectations of future emissions constraints to private sector across the Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries in their planning for new or expanded operations. In addition to retaining the specific requirement to "consider downstream greenhouse gas emission in determining a development application", the government should consider ways to assist these industries in transitioning towards low emission industries and renewable energy production in the immediate future.