Aus government backs COP28 statement but hopes to profit from extraction bonanza

Aus government backs COP28 statement but hopes to profit from extraction bonanza

Extinction Rebellion Australia, 21 Dec 2023

At the end of the end of COP28 in Dubai, XR SA rebels gathered in Adelaide to highlight the Labor government's hypocritical support for new gas, oil and coal projects, subsidies and exports; and joined with other climate activists to send a message to climate criminals - it's Christmas but we'll still be watching you.

XR SA staged a satirical 'COP This Shit' Awards ceremony outside the South Australian Supreme Court with colourful banners, flags and chanting and drumming to protest COP28's failure to achieve agreement on global action to prevent catastrophic climate boiling.

XR SA on the steps of the SA Supreme Court

Australian minister for climate change and energy Chris Bowen said the Cop28 climate summit sent a clear message that "our future is in clean energy and the age of fossil fuels will end", but he did not address the enormous contradiction between those words and the expansion of the fossil fuel industry in Australia. See The age of fossil fuels will end: Australia’s Chris Bowen hails Cop28 agreement.

Despite the urging of 130 nations and scientists and civil society groups, resistance from countries including Saudi Arabia and the Opec group of oil producers meant that the final Cop28 agreement did not include an explicit commitment to phase out, or even phase down, fossil fuels.

Instead, it called on countries to contribute to global efforts to transition "away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science".

Among the delegates to COP28 was a small but determined contingent from Vanuatu, representing their community's interests in the Pacific Islands, who face a perilous future due to rising sea levels caused by the climate crisis.

XR SA outside the SA Supreme Court

They joined many other countries in demanding the immediate phase-out of fossil fuel expansion globally to avoid the loss of their land, their homes and their way of life. At a conference led by one of the world’s biggest oil barons, it isn't surprising that their pleas were ignored.

When visiting the region after Labor won government last year, Senator Wong talked about Australia’s profound sense of kinship with Pacific Islanders, of long-standing bonds, reaffirming that "climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific."

So – where was Senator Wong when the world's leaders at COP28, including Chris Bowen, once again allowed the fossil fuel industry to walk all over us and rob the Pacific Islanders of hope for a future?

XR SA rebels visited the office of Senator Penny Wong
XR SA rebels visited the office of Senator Penny Wong, Australian Foreign Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate to present her with the inaugural ‘Cop This Shit! - Pacific drowns Australia waves’ award for not even turning up to COP28 when so much is at stake.

The Albanese government has already approved a number of new fossil fuel projects, continuing the previous Coalition government's slavish devotion to big oil and gas. See How Labor out-loved the Coalition in its embrace of big oil and gas.

Recent legislation is further proof that the Australian Government remains captive to the fossil fuel industry. The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill was all about enabling Santos’s $5.8 billion Barossa gas project by creating a regulatory system for carbon dioxide exports. The regulations will allow carbon capture and storage projects that enable CO₂ to be transported into international waters and pumped under the seabed.

Australia's declared support at COP28 for a global phase-out of fossil fuels is nothing but hypocrisy while the country remains the world's third largest exporter of fossil fuels.

Hopes for a transition to renewable energy and emissions reductions are completely inconsistent with the plans of the coal and gas industries, which are announcing new projects intended to operate well into the second half of this century.

An XR SA protest outside Santos HQ earlier this year
An XR SA protest outside Santos HQ earlier this year

Extinction Rebellion SA spokesperson Catherine Cox said:
"Last year the SA Government declared a climate emergency and is already a world leader in renewable energy. Our state is actively demonstrating that it is possible to power our society without fossil fuels and yet our government continues to support further oil and gas exploration.

"In line with global climate scientists and the UN we are demanding an immediate end to fossil fuel subsidies and no further approvals of gas, oil and coal projects by Australian governments."

In an article in the Conversation 'COP28 deal confirms what Australia already knows: coal is out of vogue and out of time', Diego Fedele points out that by backing these fossil fuel projects, the federal government is "essentially betting that the aspirations of the COP28 statement will turn out to be just wishful thinking, and that Australia can profit from a world of catastrophic global heating."

As Diego Fedele says:
"Australia must now decide what kind of energy superpower it wants to be: the home of a sustainable future, or the last refuge of coal and gas extraction."

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