OPINION: People power is threatening Australia’s oil and gas industry on an increasing scale as environmentalists and traditional landowners step up their protests against fossil fuel projects, three months after Anthony Albanese became prime minister and committed to slashing the nation’s emissions by 43% by 2030.

Eighty-two leading Australian climate and environmental scientists in August delivered an open letter to Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek asking her to consider the climate impact of burning gas and coal when assessing proposals for new fossil fuel projects.

The Climate Council’s open letter is written in support of the Environment Council of Central Queensland’s legal intervention, which uses a section of the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Act to urge Plibersek to reconsider approvals of previous environment ministers.

The scientists argue that any new approvals should be based on the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on “matters of national significance” including impact on endangered species, the Great Barrier Reef and protected wetlands.

“100 days in, the Albanese government is fumbling for excuses to justify the continuation of this mindless fossil fuel expansion,” says the Wilderness Society, an Australian not-for-profit non-governmental environmental advocacy organisation.

Bright lights

However, the society did hail the “bright lights on the horizon” — members of the new federal parliament who have already spoken out against Australia’s latest acreage release and a proposed massive offshore seismic survey.

Meanwhile, Australian operator Santos has reportedly agreed not to spud any new wells on its under-development Barossa offshore gas field while awaiting the verdict — expected in a few weeks — from last week’s historic Federal Court hearing.

Tiwi Islanders senior lawman Dennis Tipakalippa is suing Australia’s offshore regulator Nopsema in the court over its approval of Santos’ Barossa development drilling programme, alleging that proper consultation was not conducted with the Munupi clan.

Whether or not Albanese delivers on his election environmental pledges remains to be seen, but there certainly appears to be groundswell against new hydrocarbon ventures and opponents of these projects show no sign of backing down.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)