NT’S KEY CLIMATE POLICY IS NOT WORTH THE PAPER IT IS WRITTEN ON
ECNT is concerned that a key policy designed to help the Northern Territory get to its promised goal of net zero emissions by 2050 completely misses the mark.
The draft “Large Emitters Policy” released by the Northern Territory Government for consultation is supposed to force developers with large greenhouse gas emissions to take responsibility for their emissions. However, ECNT believes this is an extremely weak climate policy that will do little to assist the NT Government to achieve its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Large Emitters Policy requires certain projects to create a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Abatement Plan, but only if they meet an arbitrary definition of “large greenhouse gas emitting actions”, and if they require approval under the new Environment Protection Act. There is no requirement to offset these emissions in the policy, and the policy is not linked with any legislation (and is thus unenforceable).
Firstly, ECNT notes that, despite numerous calls to subject gas companies’ exploration activities in the Beetaloo Basin to an environmental impact assessment under the Environment Protection Act, to date there has not been an assessment of fracking activities under this legislation. This means that, as currently drafted, no fracking activities would fall within the purview of the Large Emitters Policy.
ECNT believes that, if the policy stays as is, many significant greenhouse gas emitting projects will avoid the application of the Large Emitters Policy altogether.
ECNT notes that, despite the significant carbon emissions generated by pastoral land clearing in the Northern Territory, no pastoral land clearing application has been referred for assessment under the Environment Protection Act 2019 (NT). Pastoral land clearing is a significant contributor to the Northern Territory’s greenhouse gas emissions. For example, a recent pastoral land clearing application at Ban Ban Springs would generate in the vicinity of 600,000 tonnes, contributing around 3% to the Northern Territory’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. This application was not referred for assessment under the Environment Protection Act, and therefore would not meet the threshold criteria for application of the Large Emitters Policy.
ECNT notes that there is likely to be an avalanche of land clearing applications with significant emissions profiles. The NT Farmers Association has revealed plans for 168,000 hectares of farming development across the Northern Territory, which would equate to approximately 17 million tonnes of emissions, equivalent to the Northern Territory’s entire annual greenhouse gas emissions. Applying the Large Emitters Policy as currently drafted, it is likely that none of these land clearing proposals would require the preparation of a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Abatement Plan, making the policy almost futile.
It's not good enough. ECNT is calling for major changes to the Large Emitters Policy. For more, read our submission.