Australia backs gas beyond 2050 despite climate fears


Photo: Getty Images. Australia is a big exporter of liquefied natural gas.

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, May 9: Australia has announced it will ramp up its extraction and use of gas until "2050 and beyond", despite global calls to phase out fossil fuels.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's government says the move is needed to shore up domestic energy supply while supporting a transition to net zero.

But critics argue the move is a rejection of science, pointing to the International Energy Agency (IEA) call for "huge declines in the use of coal, oil and gas" to reach climate targets.

Australia - one of the world's largest exporters of liquefied natural gas - has also said the policy is based on "its commitment to being a reliable trading partner".

Released on Thursday, the strategy outlines the government's plans to work with industry and state leaders to increase both the production and exploration of fossil fuels.

The government will also continue to support the expansion of the country's existing gas projects, the largest of which are run by Chevron and Woodside Energy Group in Western Australia.

It argues these moves are needed for Australia's domestic energy supply as it tracks towards its targets of delivering 82% renewable energy to the grid by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Currently gas accounts for 27% of the country's existing energy needs. But the bulk of what is produced domestically is exported to countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea.

Gas is responsible for roughly a quarter of Australia's total emissions, according to government data.

The policy has sparked fierce backlash from environmental groups and critics - who say it puts the interest of powerful fossil fuel companies before people.

"Fossil gas is not a transition fuel. It’s one of the main contributors to global warming and has been the largest source of increases of CO2 [emissions] over the last decade," Prof Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics and author of numerous UN climate change reports told the BBC.

Independent Senator David Pocock lashed it as “morally bankrupt, negligent and just plain stupid” in a statement on Thursday.

Successive Australian governments have touted gas as a key "bridging fuel", arguing that turning it off too soon could have "significant adverse impacts" on Australia's economy and energy needs.

But Prof Hare and other scientists have warned that building a net zero policy around gas will "contribute to locking in 2.7-3C global warming, which will have catastrophic consequences".

In 2015, world leaders promised to try to limit long-term temperature rises to 1.5C, which is seen as crucial to avoiding the most damaging impacts of climate change.

That limit was recently exceeded for the first time - from February 2023 to January 2024, according to the EU's climate service.

How did you feel after reading this news?