Australian Greens' Dissenting Report

Australian Greens' Dissenting report

1.1The importing and exporting of carbon dioxide (CO2) for sub-seabed sequestration risks turning Australia's oceans, and those of our near neighbours, into the dumping grounds for the world's pollution. The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023 (the Bill) attempts to legitimise Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as a commercially viable and effective climate solution, while all current available evidence points to its sole use as a public relations and delaying tactic for the coal and gas industry to pretend they are doing something other than jeopardising our future on this earth.[1]

1.2The timing and apparent urgency of this legislation appears to be a prop and an offering to satisfy the Japanese government that is aggressively protecting its fossil fuel investments in Australia and using its diplomatic power to pressure the Australian government to stay in fossil fuels and not regulate emissions from gas fields.[2]

1.3In the facilitation of oil and gas expansion, specifically through Santos and Japanese investor's planned Barossa offshore gas expansion, this Bill also fundamentally undermines and jeopardises Australia's efforts to meet our obligations under the Paris agreement.[3]

1.4In a year in which the Australian people will consider constitutional recognition of First Nations and the establishment of a Voice to parliament, it is striking that the implications of this bill on First Nations cultural practices and sea country have been given little attention. First Nations groups have strong cultural ties to sea country, this includes songlines but also traditional practices such as fishing. Both offshore gas and CCS projects threaten these cultural connections.[4] There must be a requirement for First Nations people to provide their free, prior and informed consent to any CCS projects, and offshore gas projects, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Santos’ proposed Barossa project, to which this Bill is inextricably linked, is a perfect example, as not only is this project a climate bomb that is relying on unproven technology, it would also impact culturally significant sea country to the Traditional Owners. In addition to this, as has now been confirmed by two Federal Court cases.[5] Santos failed to meaningfully consult with Tiwi Islanders in their planning for Barossa, let alone obtaining their free, prior and informed consent.

1.5As record temperatures heat the Northern Hemisphere and as the Atlantic and Antarctic regions experience dramatic departures from their standard temperatures, it beggars belief that the Albanese Labor Government is prioritising legislation that facilitates the expansion of fossil fuels.[6]

1.6It is the opinion of the Australian Greens that priority should be placed on the reform of our federal environmental law, including the addition of a climate trigger to stop further pollution. The Albanese government should be taking tangible, meaningful steps to fight climate change by putting an end to native forest logging and ending the expansion of new fossil fuels, but instead it takes the valuable time and energy to draft and bring forward a Bill that appears to be written by the fossil fuel industry, for the fossil fuel industry.

1.7Numerous submissions to this Senate inquiry spell out clearly that to-date CCS technology, either deployed on land or at sea, has failed spectacularly to meet any applications at the scale required to be viewed as a viable solution to man-made climate change.[7] Recent public reports show that Australia's largest CCS facility, Chevron's Gorgon facility at Barrow Island WA, which is indemnified by the Federal Government, is running at one-third its capacity.[8] In spite of this evidence, the Albanese Labor Government continues to push ahead with its support of this false climate solution that does more to prolong the life and use of fossil fuels than tackle climate change.

1.8To highlight this point, in its right of reply to the submission of The Australia Institute, Geoscience Australia states 'in addition to these operational projects [35 CCS projects operating globally], there are well over 100 more in the planning or construction phase indicating that, in addition to being scientifically proven, CCS is commercially viable'.[9] To be clear, just because CCS projects are being planned or even constructed does not make them commercially viable.[10] As raised in a number of submissions but most acutely contained in the submission received from The Australia Institute, the combined climate mitigation of all CCS projects globally may be 'sequestering around 6.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas per year, roughly the emissions of Port Kembla Steelworks near Wollongong'.[11]

1.9However, Santos claims its Bayu-Undan CCS project will have the capacity of 10 million tonnes per year. The math just doesn't stack up for Santos if it sticks by its claim to have the ability to capture more pollution in one project than all the world's current CCS projects combined—having no proven track record of doing anything, anywhere of this scale elsewhere.

1.10As multiple submissions to this inquiry describe.[12] the legislation in question appears to be primarily concerned with facilitating the Santos Barossa project, its related Bayu-Undan CCS projects and other fossil fuel projects off Australia's northern coastlines.[13] In its current form this bill seems more concerned with facilitating the expansion of fossil fuels than with taking genuine steps to fight climate change caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas.

1.11Submissions to the Senate inquiry have uncovered significant legal and regulatory issues contained within the legislation in its current form.[14] These must be addressed if the parliament is to have any confidence that the importation and exportation of carbon pollution for the purposes of sub-seabed sequestration is both environmentally safe and able to be monitored and regulated in any meaningful way.

1.12Despite Australia’s obligations under the London Protocol, specifically Annex2, currently the Bill affords the Minister a high level of discretion in the decision-making process for the granting of CO2 export permits for sub-seabed CCS sequestration. As highlighted by the submission made by Environment Centre NT, the permitting provisions are 'sparse and not sufficiently prescriptive'.[15] While the Albanese Labor Government may claim it has the best of intentions in bringing forward this Bill, without rigorous and prescriptive guardrails for Ministerial discretion and intervention in the permit granting process, the legislation may become a millstone to effective climate action that instead serves the commercial interests of the multinational fossil fuel corporations it would primarily affect.

1.13The Bill also currently does not articulate or define in a meaningful way how it fits within the existing environmental and offshore petroleum regulatory framework (for example the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act), and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)). It is also unclear from current reading of the Bill which government department or departments will have oversight and regulatory responsibility for planned CCS sub-seabed sequestration in Australian waters.

1.14Currently, there is also no explicit provision or requirement for an environmental impact assessment to be undertaken prior to the grating of a permit under this legislation.[16] The lack of requirement for even a basic environmental impact assessment to be undertaken is not consistent with a government with an aspiration of a 'nature-positive' Australia.

1.15In relation to the exporting of carbon dioxide pollution to be injected under the seabed of sovereign waters of other nations, there is no apparent stipulation within the legislation as to the environmental and regulatory conditions that must be met by countries receiving captured carbon dioxide for sub-seabed sequestration.[17] These requirements should be in legislation and not left to the Minister of the day to decide if a project does not adversely impact the environment. There needs to be a clear mechanism within the legislation that oversees this critical point.

1.16With all of the above evidence laid out clearly and in many submissions to this inquiry, the only rational and responsible conclusion that can be drawn is that the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023 should not be supported or passed by the Parliament in its current form.

1.17Should the legislation be brought to the Senate to be voted on, a number of amendments must be made to ensure there is no damage to the environment or climate this bill claims to protect. These include:

With specific reference to the Bayu Undan project in Timor Leste, the government must outline the regulatory capacity and readiness on the part of Timor Leste to ensure the same level of environmental protection as Australia, and if so, the mechanisms by which this will be achieved.

Restrict the scope of Ministerial discretion in decision making by amending the Bill to provide stricter and more prescriptive provisions for the issuing of CO2 export permits.

Amend the Bill to mandate an environment impact assessment be conducted prior to the granting of a permit.

Amend the Bill to mandate compliance with both the International Maritime Organization’s 'Risk Assessment and Management Framework for CO2 Sequestration in Sub-Seabed Geological Structures' and the 'Specific Guidelines on Assessment of CO2 Steams for Disposal into Sub-Seabed Geological Formation (the Specific Guidelines)'.

Amend the Bill to clearly define the relationship between the Bill and other regulatory frameworks—including the OPGGS Act, the EPBC Act and statebased environmental regimes.

Amend the Bill to clearly articulate the responsibilities of the Australian government and permit holders in relation to transboundary liability in the event of accident or adverse environmental outcome.

Senator Sarah Hanson-YoungSenator Peter Whish-Wilson

Deputy Chair Participating Member


[1]See Environmental Defenders Office, Submission 14.

[2]Jacob Greber, 'Australia's gas policies threaten world peace, says Japanese giant', Australian Financial Review, 30 March 2023 (accessed 27 July 2023).

[3]See Australian Conservation Foundation, Submission 18.

[4]See GetUp!, Submission 22.

[6]See The Australia Institute, Submission 32.

[7]See The Australia Institute, Submission 32.

[8]Daniel Mercer, 'World's biggest carbon capture plant running at one third capacity, Chevron Australia reveals', ABC News, 17 May 2023 (accessed 27 July 2023).

[9]Response from Geoscience Australia to Submission 32, p. 1.

[10]See The Australia Institute, Submission 32.

[11]The Australia Institute, Submission 32, p. 3.

[12]See for example: Environment Centre NT, Submission 17; Australian Conservation Foundation, Submission 18; The Australia Institute, Submission 32.

[13]See The Australia Institute, Submission 32.

[14]See for example: Australian Marine Conservation Society, Submission 12; National Environmental Law Association, Submission 11; Environmental Justice Australia, Submission 21.

[15]Environment Centre NT, Submission 17, [p. 2].

[16]See Australian Conservation Foundation, Submission 18.

[17]See Environment Centre NT, Submission 17.