Natural gas – An Australian solution to a global challenge

The important role Australia’s natural gas industry plays in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is too often overlooked or downplayed in debating issues on principle rather than embracing reality.

While Australians are rightly concerned about how we reduce emissions at home, we overlook the fact that liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from Australia have the potential to save global emissions equal to over a quarter of the country’s total annual domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

Clearly there are emissions associated with producing natural gas, but there are real emissions reductions is using natural gas.

Australia’s latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory underpins recent comments from Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor that this equates to lowering emissions in importing countries by around 152 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide principally by the actual and potential displacement of coal consumption in those countries.

This is a substantial global contribution which Australia should be proud of. The figure represents around 27 per cent of Australia’s total annual emissions – more than the combined emissions from the Australian transport and waste sectors.

Another new study by the CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance has highlighted that considerable climate benefits are possible where natural gas is used for electricity generation; particularly in developing countries.

So, it’s important for the oil and gas industry – especially Australia’s growing LNG sector – to be recognised for the positive role it is and can play in the broader energy and generation debate. In short, natural gas is enabling the shift to renewables and will continue to do so for decades come.

As the global appetite for energy continues to grow, the process of substituting gas for more emissions-intensive fuels allows importing countries to satisfy growing demand and reduce emissions.

When replacing other fuels, LNG can cut help to emissions by around 50 per cent.

LNG also helps developing countries, including across Asia, to reduce air pollution, which is a major cause of millions of premature deaths each year.

China provides an excellent case study of the role natural gas, including from Australian LNG, can play in reducing greenhouse emissions and air pollution.

Work by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies found since 2017, natural gas consumption in China has risen sharply as a result of strengthened action against air pollution. China has an array of coal-to-gas switching policies and projects underway at a national and regional level. Australia – as China’s largest LNG supplier – is playing a key role in these developments.

It also underscores that reducing emissions is a global challenge that requires a global solution, best delivered through a commitment to meaningful action rather than esoteric discussion. Our gas sector is delivering such meaningful action.

In the long-term, Australia’s LNG projects will deliver decades of economic growth, jobs and exports as well as strong regional and global environmental benefits.

The Australian oil and gas industry has invested more than $350 billion in the economy over the last decade and this will sustain economic benefits for many years, particularly in regional areas that host our activities.

Australia’s LNG export earnings are expected to increase by 62 per cent to $50.2 billion in 2018‑19 and are forecast to reach $52.6 billion in 2019-20, according to new figures released by the Department of Industry.

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