Australia commits to gas supplies after 2050 despite climate warnings

Image source, Getty Images

Photo Title, Australia is a large exporter of liquefied natural gas

  • Author, Hannah Ritchie
  • Role, BBC news
  • Reporting from Sydney

Australia has announced it will increase gas production and use by “2050 and beyond”, despite global calls to phase out fossil fuels.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government says the move is needed to boost the country’s energy supply while supporting the transition to net zero energy.

But critics say the move amounts to a rejection of science, pointing out that the International Energy Agency (IEA) is calling for a “huge decline in the use of coal, oil and gas” to meet climate goals.

Australia – one of the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas – also said the policy was based on “its commitment to being a reliable trading partner”.

The strategy, published on Thursday, outlines the government’s plans to work with industry and national leaders to increase both production and exploration of fossil fuels.

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

It argues that these moves are needed in the context of Australia’s domestic energy supply as Australia strives to meet targets of bringing 82% renewable energy to the grid by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Currently, gas covers 27% of the country’s current energy demand. However, most of the domestic production is exported to countries such as China, Japan and South Korea.

According to government data, gas accounts for about a quarter of Australia’s total emissions.

The policy has sparked a backlash from environmental groups and critics who say it puts the interests of powerful fossil fuel companies ahead of people.

“Fossil gas is not a transition fuel. It is one of the main contributors to global warming and the largest contributor to the increase in CO2 emissions over the last decade,” Professor Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics and author of numerous publications UN reports on climate change, reported to the BBC.

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

Successive Australian governments have touted gas as a key “bridge fuel”, arguing that switching it off too early could have a “significant adverse impact” on Australia’s economy and energy needs.

However, Professor Hare and other scientists warned that building a net zero policy around gas “will contribute to stopping global warming by 2.7-3°C, which will have catastrophic consequences.”

In 2015, world leaders promised to try to limit long-term temperature increases to 1.5°C, which is considered crucial to avoiding the most harmful effects of climate change.

According to the EU Climate Service, this limit was recently exceeded for the first time – from February 2023 to January 2024.