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Labor MPs raise concerns about Govt’s gas strategy

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The Government released its “Future Gas Strategy” last week, outlining how it plans to use gas for the “economy’s transition to net zero”.
A group of Labor MPs say they’re concerned about the environmental impacts of the Federal Government’s new energy plan.

A group of Labor MPs say they’re concerned about the environmental impacts of the Federal Government’s new energy strategy.

The Government released its “Future Gas Strategy” last week,
outlining how it plans to use gas for the “economy’s transition to net zero”.

However, it has divided Government MPs, with concern surrounding the potentially negative environmental impacts of the plan.

Here’s why.

Net zero

In 2022 the Australian Government legislated its plan to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

‘Net zero emissions’ refers to balancing greenhouse gas emissions produced and taken out of the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gases, emitted from activities like burning fossil fuels, trap carbon in the atmosphere, causing hotter temperatures on Earth.

Experts warn Australia is not on track to reach net zero by 2050, which requires a major transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

About gas

Gas is a non-renewable form of energy and a fossil fuel. At present, it accounts for more than a quarter of Australia’s energy requirements.

According to the latest Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), Australia was one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases. The CCPI included criticism of Australia’s continued gas production.

The International Energy Agency, which helps countries develop sustainable energy policy, argues gas has a “limited role” in the transition towards renewable forms of energy.

Gas strategy

The Government released six ‘principles’ to guide its decision-making, including “new sources of gas” to meet energy demands during the net zero transition.

Resources Minister Madeline King said: “Gas will remain an important source of energy through to 2050 and beyond”.

She added: “It is clear we will need continued exploration, investment and development in the sector to support the path to net zero… and to avoid a shortfall in gas supplies”.

Reaction

The gas strategy was welcomed by some unions and business groups, including the peak industry body Australian Energy Producers.

However, some climate groups have condemned the plan for locking in fossil fuel projects. The Climate Council’s Head of Policy Dr Jennifer Rayner said: “More gas means more climate pollution and a more dangerous future”.

Independent think tank The Australia Institute’s climate director Polly Hemming said the plan is “scientifically and economically reckless”.

Labor MPs

Victorian Labor MP Josh Burns has criticised the gas-focused plan, instead urging “more aggressive policies” on climate action.

Burns told TDA: “Instead of prolonging the fossil fuel industry, my view is that we should be transitioning to low emissions technology as quickly as possible”.

He said there are many MPs, including cabinet ministers, who want to see Australia become a “leader in climate action, not a laggard”.

At least five Labor MPs have spoken out against the gas strategy.

Sydney MPs Sally Sitou and Jerome Laxale have both voiced concerns about the gas strategy.

Sitou said: “For the sake of generations to come, we must move quickly towards a low-carbon future”.

Laxale added: “We must move away from fossil fuels, not champion them”.

Opposition

Shadow Energy spokesperson Ted O’Brien has said the gas strategy misses an opportunity to deliver a “credible gas policy”.

In a statement to TDA, O’Brien said: “Labor’s so called ‘gas strategy’… kills off any chances of Labor getting any additional gas out of the ground”.

He accused the Labor MPs speaking out against the plan for taking a purely “ideological” stance.

Govt response

The Federal Govt has defended its policy.

Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen told ABC Melbourne the Government was working with those MPs who have spoken out against the gas strategy.

He said the MPs were “very active in our climate discussions“ and welcomed their contributions to improving climate policy.

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