It is difficult to find an aspect of life in Western Australia that is not touched by the mining industry. State politics, the economy and cultural events all bear its mark. The skyline of the state’s capital–dominated by BHP, Rio Tinto and Woodside–tells the story.
So Perth is the obvious choice for a two-day meeting of environmental vandals looking to hone their destructive techniques. In late November, mining executives, along with WA premier Mark McGowan, will meet for the Resources Technology Showcase, a two-day event dedicated to “the technology future of the world’s most influential mining, oil and gas companies”. In the face of global concern about the current and future impact of climate change, this “unprecedented gathering of mining and energy executives” will be strategising about how to ensure the fossil fuel industry has a long and profitable future.
Challenging the authority of this industry in the mining state is controversial, to say the least. But that is just what a coalition of activists plan to do by blockading the conference.
The WA mining and resource sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emission growth in Australia. One part of the industry in particular is behind much of this: the liquified natural gas (LNG) sector. Five of Australia’s seven current LNG plants are located in Western Australia, and together they have been responsible for much of the 23 percent increase in the state’s emissions since 2005 (all other states and territories’ emissions have fallen over the same period). Just two LNG companies are responsible for an entire third of Western Australia’s total carbon emissions.
Western Australia’s gas production has received surprisingly little attention in the national debate about climate change. While there has been a lot of attention on the dangers posed by Adani’s Carmichael mine, not much has been said about Woodside’s Browse Basin and Burrup Hub expansion. At full capacity this hub is estimated to emit three to four times the greenhouse gases of the Adani mine.
A recent report produced by environmental advocacy group Clean State reveals the impact of WA gas to be much greater than what the industry and its government supporters have claimed. According to the report, when all the state’s gas plants come online their emissions will eclipse every other attempt made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. The yearly emissions of these plants, for example, will amount to nearly five times the carbon saved by all of the country’s 2.1 million rooftop solar panels, a timely reminder of the limits of individual efforts to avert climate catastrophe while powerful corporations are allowed to continue profiting from destruction.
The state Labor party is one the industry’s most ardent champions. Earlier this year, when the WA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed that large polluting projects be required to completely offset their emissions, it was Labor who stepped in to quash the proposal and protect the industry. McGowan assured the LNG bosses that they had his full support, and showed this by not only opposing the EPA proposal, but also strong-arming the agency into publicly withdrawing it.
In addition to this, the Labor government has failed to enforce the environmental regulations LNG projects were greenlit under. Earlier this year, for example, Chevron evaded penalties for not implementing the required carbon capture program at its Gorgon Gas Hub. For nearly two years they emitted carbon dioxide and methane without restriction or consequence, while workers at the plant were exposed to mercury and carcinogenic benzene. Labor’s only response to this was to assure the public that Chevron were starting the carbon capture project soon.
The cosy relationship between Labor and the LNG sector in WA will be on full display at the Resources Technology Showcase. In addition to hosting some of the biggest climate criminals in the world, including executives from Woodside, Shell, Chevron, and BHP, two key Labor speakers will join them on stage, Mark McGowan and state secretary of Unions WA, Meredith Hammat. Hammat will shamefully sit beside some of the most destructive and anti-worker corporations in the world, openly eschewing the basic union principle of solidarity. Not only have some of these corporations exposed WA workers to awful conditions and shocking pay, many have been linked to authoritarian, anti-worker governments.
While the world burns these climate criminals intend to profit right up to the very end. We need serious and public opposition to their agenda. All around the world, climate criminals must be treated with the enmity they deserve like our collective future depends on it.
The blockade of the Resource Technology Showcase will begin at 8am on Wednesday 27 of November at the Perth Exhibition Centre. A contingent will also join the blockade later in the day, marching at 9am from Forrest Chase.