There is little in the Northern Territory's planned environmental offsets policy to say how it intends to cope with an onshore gas industry.
The NT Government released its 11-page draft offsets policy for public comment today.
Even its own scientific experts have warned a shale gas industry would wreck the Territory's climate credentials.
One estimate discussed in the Rachel Pepper scientific review which gave the green light to gas exploration said "fugitive emissions from natural gas production in the NT are expected to be about three per cent of Australia's Inventory methane emissions".
So allowing a shale gas industry to develop would dramatically increase the nation's greenhouse gas emissions at a time the world is desperately trying to reduce them.
The other headache for this government is that it has set an a long-term "aspirational" target of net zero emissions by 2050.
The NT Government has still not said how it plans to tackle the increase in greenhouse gases resulting from the development of an onshore gas industry.
The Federal Government has its own problems with high energy prices in the major population centres and has been pushing the NT hard to allow the industry to develop whether other states have banned it.
One trade off, it has been suggested, is that the Federal Government will negotiate with the Territory Government on this issue of greenhouse gas.
The NT government accepted the scientific panel's recommendation - "That the NT and Australian governments seek to ensure that there is no net increase in the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions emitted in Australia from any onshore shale gas produced in the NT".
In its climate change document released earlier in the year there are just two paragraphs to the development of onshore gas on Page 15 of the document.
"The NT Government has accepted Recommendation 9.8 of the inquiry, which states that the NT and Australian Government seek to ensure there is no net increase in the lifecycle emissions emitted in Australia from any onshore shale gas produced in the NT.
"The NT Government is continuing to work with the Australian Government on this matter."
Today's policy launch is directed squarely at its obligations as pointed out by the Pepper inquiry.
"The purpose of the policy is to ensure economic development continues while our environmental values are protected in the long term," the government says.
"It will guide the development of offsets arrangements, as well as biodiversity offsets where projects are determined to have a significant residual impact.
The government says the NT "is proposing to implement a target based offsets model which fits our unique circumstances".
It says reducing wildfires, weeds and feral animals could provide offsets in the form of more plants to lock up carbon.
It says the Territory has a "unique set of environmental characteristics that require a Territory-specific approach to offset implementation".
"These include: relatively intact landscapes which mean that biodiversity loss cannot generally be averted in the NT by simply 'locking up' an offset area.
"Rather, management of loss generally requires the reduction of pervasive threats such as inappropriate fire, weeds and feral animals, which is most effectively achieved at a broad landscape scale the fine-scale ecosystem mapping and habitat integrity metrics used in offset calculations in southern states are not available for the NT land tenure regimes in the NT are very different, with almost all land being leasehold or Aboriginal freehold. Securing land for conventional offsets, especially in perpetuity, is very problematic for many potential offset scenarios."
It also says - "Developments that generate greenhouse gas emissions can offset those emissions by avoiding or sequestering GHG emissions in another area".
But again there is no further detail on that.
The government says development of this model will be tailored through public consultation and expert advice from academics and practitioners.
The model could include the reduction of landscape-scale threats such as fire, weeds and feral animals.
Offsets in the Northern Territory could provide new opportunities for Aboriginal Territorians through jobs on country whilst ensuring ongoing economic investment.
The community is invited to provide feedback of the draft Policy by visiting https://haveyoursay.nt.gov.au/
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Eva Lawler said: "The Government understands a strong economy relies on a healthy environment. This is why we are developing a climate change plan, it's why we are creating jobs through our 50% renewables target, it's why we are strengthening environmental protection laws, and why we are developing an offsets policy.
"Our Territory has a unique set of environmental characteristics which needs a specific Territory approach.
"The Government will work with community members and leaders in this field to create the best offsets policy suited for the Territory."
The draft policy can be found here.
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