There is a gaping greenhouse gas hole in the Northern Territory's climate change plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The government released a series of documents today which again have failed to answer how an onshore gas industry could be developed and greenhouse gas targets still be met.
The NT government has accepted the Pepper 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".
Experts have already suggested the shale gas industry could lift Australia's greenhouse gases as much as three per cent.
Despite the release of its "offsets framework" today the policy is thin on detail and basically says more needs to be done to figure out how the offsets policy would work.
"Adoption of the net zero emissions by 2050 target provides certainty to industry that the Territory expects all reasonable and practical steps to be taken when designing and implementing projects, to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are kept as low as reasonably possible," policy documents state.
"The Territory Government has an objective to transition the Territory's economy to a low carbon economy.
"This objective is reflected in the Climate Change Response net zero emissions by 2050 target.
"Greenhouse gas offsetting is expected to support achievement of this target, however progress towards this target will be informed by a broader emissions reduction strategy.
The first step in developing the Biodiversity Offset Policy is the identification and determination of the biodiversity offsets targets. Development of the targets and the Biodiversity Policy is proposed to be undertaken over the second half of 2020.
The government released its draft offsets policy late last year and said most of public comments received on the draft "identified that the draft policy was lacking in detail and therefore did not provide a clear policy position".
The government said: "The Government does not consider the use of offsets to be an all-encompassing solution to address challenges associated with environmental degradation, biodiversity declines, climate change or GHG emissions.
"In most Australian jurisdictions, governments now allow a financial payment into an offset fund as an alternative to implementing on-ground offsets. This is not the preferred approach in the Northern Territory."
Griffith University's Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe in October last year said shale gas would have "a catastrophic impact on Australia's efforts to slow climate change".
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said Professor Lowe "grossly exaggerated" the likely carbon emissions from proposed gas developments in the NT.
APPEA director NT, Keld Knudsen said Professor Lowe over-estimates gas production by at least 10 times those envisaged by industry and independent observers.
So rather than detail, today's Offsets Framework released contains a set of guiding principles that will be support by a biodiversity offset policy, a greenhouse gas emissions policy and technical guidelines for each policy.
"The principles outlined in the framework will guide the design and development of all types of offsets to provide consistency and certainty to the community, landholders, industry and businesses operating in the Territory."
The Offsets principles are:
- Offsets must contribute to relevant Territory targets
- Offsets must be designed to deliver maximum benefit to the Territory
- Benefits of offsets must be additional and secured
- Offsets must be knowledge-based and design must be responsive
- Stakeholder engagement, disclosure and transparency is required
- Duplication of offsets must be avoided.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Eva Lawler said: "The government understands that a strong economy relies on a healthy environment and our unique environment needs a specific Territory approach.
"This is why we are implementing our Climate Change Response, 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 offsets policy."
Protect Country Alliance spokesman Graeme Sawyer said: "It is difficult to take the NT Gunner Government seriously on matters of the environment and reducing carbon emissions when it continues to push its polluting, pro-fracking agenda.
"Any offset plan is a farce while MPs are actively promoting and pursuing a massive destructive fracking industry in the Territory.
"If the Beetaloo Basin is fracked to the extent the government wants, it would unleash a carbon bomb equivalent to the commissioning of more than 50 coal fired power stations.
"It is doubtful that offsetting this is feasible for the nation, let alone the NT, given the scope of the emissions that would be produced from fracking the Beetaloo.
"Offsets are a last resort in the process of managing impacts of resource projects and as such are not legitimately considered as an operational justification for a polluting process.
"It would cost billions of dollars to offset fracking in the Beetaloo and it is not possible to fit the carbon emissions offsets into any of the budget scenarios we have seen.
"Fracking companies are going bankrupt in the USA due to a glut of gas so it beggars belief that the Gunner Government still touts this polluting and economically unviable practice as some sort of economic cure-all. This is plain spin from the Gunner Government."
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