Climate Crisis, Features

Carbon co’s should compensate for climate harm, says report

Fossil Fool Bulletin • 5 November 2019

A new report from the University of NSW finds that Australia is the world’s 16th biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting country. But within Australia’s borders there is a larger contributor to climate change: the companies that extract coal, gas and oil and sell them worldwide. These huge companies are the carbon majors.

The Australia’s Carbon Majors report lists Australia’s top 10 carbon emitters:

BHP Billiton, Glencore, Yancoal, Peabody, Anglo American and Whitehaven (coal miners) and Chevron, Woodside, ExxonMobil and Santos (oil and gas miners) produce more GHG emissions than Canada. If they were a country, they would sit eighth in the world on the list of highest emitters.

The report’s lead author, Jeremy Moss from the UNSW Practical Justice Initiative and a professor of political philosophy, said there was a clear case that big emitting companies, which the report calls “carbon majors”, should be held responsible for the consequences of their products.

Key findings

• In 2018 emissions produced from the coal extracted by Australia’s top six coal producers (551Mt CO2-e), were greater than the whole of Australia’s projected domestic emissions (534Mt CO2-e) for 2018.

• The ten largest Australian carbon majors produced the equivalent of 669.71 Mt CO2-e in 2018, which is around 75% of the emissions from global air traffic or around 28 million flights (895Mt CO2-e 38 million flights).

• Together, the top ten Australian carbon majors produce more GHG emissions than Canada. If they were a country, they would sit eighth in the world on the list of highest emitters.

• In the last 15 years the emissions from BHP’s Australian coal, oil and gas have produced the equivalent of 2,361Mt CO2-e in emissions and just one year the indirect GHG emissions by their global operations produced 596Mt CO2-e (BHP 2019), more than the projected emissions of 25 million Australians for the same period.

• The Australian carbon majors are complicit in climate harms and ought to bear some of the liabilities for climate harms.

Key recommendations

1. No sales of mine assets as going concerns

• Fossil fuel mines to be retired, not on sold to other companies

2. Carbon major sites to be restored

• Funds to be set aside for rehabilitation

• Rehabilitation costs to take precedence over shareholder returns

• Profit sharing ought to occur from ‘clean’ parts of the business

3. Compensation for contribution to past harms

• Compensatory mechanisms must address past emissions at least since 1990

• Affected workers and communities to be assisted

4. Compensation should not only be domestic

• Compensation should address the needs of those harmed globally

5. No new mines

• No new exploration

6. Political influence

• Carbon majors should cease political lobbying

• Carbon majors should not fund third party campaigns in favour of fossil fuels

7. Phase-outs

• Carbon majors should phase out their fossil fuel operations in line with IPCC evidence

• Download the report here:

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