Environmentalists are urging the developers of a major liquefied natural gas project near Darwin to increase their carbon offset program.
Inpex, the Japanese company behind the $33 billion Icthys project, is promising to offset more than 16 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, with the plant expected to increase emissions in the Northern Territory by 30 per cent.
In the next five years the project will see the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant on the fringe of Darwin Harbour, the second largest LNG project in the country.
It will be connected by the world’s longest undersea pipeline to the Browse Basin gas field in Western Australia.
But Stuart Blanch, from The Environment Centre Northern Territory, says the project is expected to generate 280 million tonnes of emissions over 40 years.
“The Inpex project is the Territory’s most polluting greenhouse gas project ever envisaged or approved and it will increase Australia’s national emissions by over 1 per cent up to 1.3 per cent,” Dr Blanch said.
When the deal was announced on Friday, Inpex chairman Naoki Kuroda repeated a promise to spend more than $90 million on a social responsibility package.
Thirty-seven million dollars of that money is earmarked for a carbon offset scheme.
The voluntarily investments will help offset 16.5 per cent of the emissions over 20 years, but Dr Blanch says Inpex can afford to spend up to $90 million a year.
“What we think they should do is honour their commitment to be good corporate citizens and to look after the environment and to offset around 2.5 to 3 million tonnes per annum, which would be the balance between their voluntary offsets and what they’re likely to get in terms of a carbon liability under the federal emissions trading system (ETS) when it starts from July,” he said.
The company is not obliged to offset emissions, and when an ETS is in place Dr Blanch expects gas producers will receive special treatment.
“Companies like Inpex in the gas sector can get perhaps half, maybe two-thirds, of their carbon permits for free once the emissions trading system starts,” he said.
“So that means the polluters are getting a very large hand-up at a time when the world needs to quickly cutting carbon pollution.”
With production not expected to begin until 2016, an Inpex spokeswoman says the company is still assessing its greenhouse gas abatement options.