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Estimates: Questions about the IPCC report and new fossil fuel approvals

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Tuesday 10 August 2021, I asked about the IPCC's sixth assessment report and the Government's process for assessing new coal and gas projects. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: We are all well aware that yesterday the IPCC published their Sixth Assessment Report which shows what an extraordinary and urgent task we have if we are to maintain a safe climate. This comes on top of International Energy Agency analysis showing that net zero emissions by 2050 requires no new coalmines or expansions and no new gas projects beyond this year. My question first of all is to the director-general. Is this analysis, particularly from the IEA, considered in departmental decisions to issue any new tenure but particularly new leases for fossil fuel projects in Queensland?

Mr Kaiser: I thank the member for the question. Before I answer it, could I add to an answer I provided earlier around the composition of that interdepartmental committee on the Resources Industry Development Plan. I want to be complete in my answer. There are an additional three directors-general on that IDC—the directors-general covering the department that covers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships, the department of training and the Department of Energy and Public Works. I did not want to leave them out because my colleagues are working like beavers to get this plan done and
I would hate to not complete that. Could you repeat the question?

Mr BERKMAN: Is the IEA analysis in particular considered in departmental decisions to issue any new tenure but particularly new leases for fossil fuel projects in Queensland?

Mr Kaiser: By the time this department considers a mining lease, an application or a proponent has already received an environmental authority so we would expect those environmental considerations to have been picked up then by either the Department of Environment and Science or through Commonwealth processes.

Mr BERKMAN: The IEA analysis basically shows the trajectory which requires no new coal or gas. It is really much more a question of the energy market analysis internationally saying that these new projects cannot get up if we are going to achieve net zero by 2050. Putting aside the EA assessment process, does your department consider that kind of analysis in issuing any new mining lease?

Mr Kaiser: There is nothing in the act against which we judge mining leases which would take that into consideration. Those sorts of considerations, if they are relevant, are expected to be taken into consideration in the delivery of an environmental authority.

Mr BERKMAN: To the minister then, if I might turn to you briefly. As you know, I understand we are the biggest global exporter of thermal coal and LNG in the world, and the IEA and IPCC are telling us that that needs to stop as soon as possible if we are going to keep a safe climate for our kids and grandkids and keep it under 1.5 degrees warming. Minister, do you or the government have any plan to stop approvals of coal and gas in line with recommendations from the IEA and IPCC, or is the plan to simply pretend that those emissions will not affect the global climate because exports are someone
else’s problem?

CHAIR: Member, you were going so well and then you put that last bit on your question. Minister, I will ask you to answer the first bit of the question, and I will give you leeway to do whatever you want with the second bit of the question.

Mr STEWART: I note that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, was released on 9 August. I also note the statement from the UN secretary on the IPCC report. There is some strong language around OECD countries phasing out coal projects by 2030 and that fossil fuel exploration and production should be ended. I would point out that the issues relating to climate change fall within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs. Any questions relating to climate change should be directed to Minister Scanlon.

Having said that, this government has long held the position that we support coal projects as long as they stack up financially, environmentally and socially. The coal industry has made a key contribution to the success and prosperity of Queensland, and I am confident that we will be a coal exporter for many years to come. It is pertinent for me to say that around 85 per cent of our coal exports in our coalmines is metallurgical coal which is used for, as you know, the production of steel. This means coalmining and jobs will be part of our economy now and for the foreseeable future and the royalties from coal will continue to fund our vital public services and infrastructure such as our hospitals, schools and roads.

However, this government also takes climate change very seriously. We recently launched our Queensland Climate Action Plan which includes a commitment to deliver a 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target by 2030 and a 30 per cent emissions reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. It also commits us to reach zero net emissions by 2050.

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