Climate change: Australia’s worst companies to blame


We know who Australia’s biggest polluters are. Each year, the government publishes data on the main sources of scope 1 greenhouse emissions (i.e. produced directly as part of the production process of an installation) and scope 2 emissions. (produced indirectly). Not surprisingly, this list – led by AGL Energy – is dominated by large coal-fired utilities and gas companies.

But the list does not capture Scope 3 emissions (emissions produced indirectly by a company) and in particular Scope 3 emissions resulting from the combustion of Australian thermal coal exports to the world.

It also does not capture the impact on emissions and climate policy of a company’s actions. Is it looking to move away from fossil fuels or to separate its fossil energy business from the rest of its portfolio? Is it really committed to significantly reducing emissions? Or does he plan to to augment emissions or use discredited carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as an excuse for inaction?

And what role does it play in the public debate? Is he engaging in climate denial, or does he pretend to accept climate change but oppose policies to deal with it? Does he participate in public debate in good faith, does he peddle lies and distractions? And what kind of influence is he looking for in policymaking? Does he use political donations and job offers to build strong ties with politicians to dictate policy?

Crykey put together a list of criteria to determine Australia’s worst climate culprits. It covers the level of emissions produced, the commitment to internal decarbonisation, the levels of political donations, the type of role it plays in the public debate, the support it gives to bad climate policy. and the extent of its political connections that allow it to sabotage climate action. . The result is a tally of our worst climate culprits.

1) Santos and Woodside (tied)

The liquefied natural gas (LNG) giants combine massive greenhouse gas emissions from their extraction and sale of natural gas with extensive political connections and a willingness to distort climate and energy policy for their own benefit. Both are among the largest political donors to both sides of politics and both have strong ties to both sides through the employment of former political staff as cadres and former ministers as directors of the board of directors.

Santos is by far the largest employer of former political staff – primarily, but by no means exclusively, Coalition staff, while Wood side likes not only to have former civil servants in its executive ranks, but also an ex-politician or a senior civil servant on its board of directors.

Former Santos executives were instrumental in shaping the Morrison government’s “gas-fired recovery” strategy from the pandemic. Both companies continue to push for new projects that would massively increase greenhouse gas emissions – Andrew Forrest has rightly criticized the Barossa de Santos project as “one of the most polluting projects in the world”. And both make CCS a viable option for reducing emissions, despite the mountain of evidence that it doesn’t work.

Santos and Woodside are climate criminals who, under any science-based climate policy, would be shut down immediately.

2) News Corp, Whitehaven Coal, Delta Electricity, Waratah Coal and APPEA (tied)

Corp News produces only tiny emissions itself, but makes up for its lack of direct environmental impacts with rampant climate denial, intense opposition to climate action, and a powerful political role. Instead of traditional financial donations, it makes a massive donation of airtime and newspaper coverage to the Coalition to Support Climate Inaction and uses its reporters to campaign against any proposed climate action. A festering tumor of English-speaking democracies, News Corp is a major force in climate denial.

Whitehaven Coal is a major coal exporter who is also a political donor to the Coalition and has strong political connections through its chairman, former Nationals leader Mark Vaile. Vaile and Whitehaven advocated extremist policies in favor of fossil fuels – Vaile demanded that financial institutions be forced to lend to new coal mining projects, putting the entire financial system at risk (a view well received in within government). Like a miniature Woodside, Whitehaven symbolizes all that is wrong with Australian governance and policymaking – and how power really works in a country riddled with soft corruption.

Delta Electricity, like gas giants Santos et al, combines significant emissions – via coal-fired power generation – with a strong relationship with the Coalition through its chairman Trevor St Baker, a major Coalition donor and former candidate of Nationals and opposing climate action. St Baker called for the reopening of coal-fired power plants and the postponement of the scheduled shutdown of these generators.

Waratah Coal continues to open up the Galilee Basin as a major new coalfield, and has been at the center of a human rights dispute by a group of young Australians in which the government, while admitting that the project would increase greenhouse gas emissions, claimed he had no duty to protect Australians. While Waratah owner Clive Palmer – once a major Nationals donor – has had little direct influence on coalition politics in recent years, he spent $ 80 million attacking Labor during the last election, contributing to the defeat of a party proposing a significant increase in action on climate change.

APPEA is the right-wing lobby group for oil extractors. While traditionally encouraging attacks on fundamental rights at work, APPEA is also a major opponent of climate action. Worried about growing hostility from investors, he is betting everything on CCS. He has significantly increased his political donations in recent years and between 2018 and 2020 gave a quarter of a million dollars, mainly to the Coalition.

3) Origin and Minerals Council of Australia (ex aequo)

Origin, another large gas company and the fourth largest source of Scope 1 emissions, has handed over more than three-quarters of a million dollars to political parties over the past decade and, like its competitors, is a strong supporter of CCS .

While the Minerals Council is no longer as staunch supporter of the expansion of coal mining as when BHP forced Brendan Pearson to step down, he continues to support the failure of the CCS and has also raised his donations, remitting nearly $ 390,000 to political parties over the past two years.

4) Chevron

Rinse it, repeat: A huge generator of emissions from its natural gas projects, the American multinational Chevron is a huge political donor responsible for the now officially failed Gorgon CCS project.

The worst of the rest

Shell, Hancock prospectingthe joint venture of in the Galilee Basin, the Australian Business Council, and large coal-fired generators AGL, Energy Australia and the Queensland government generators.

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Pierre Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crykey

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