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As delays continue on reforms to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), the Climate Council has called on the Federal Government to pause all polluting project approvals until after the reforms are dealt with.

The Federal Government has said it will provide a stronger EPBC Act. But while the reform process stretches on with no legislation in sight, new fossil fuel projects are being approved and more loom in the pipeline.

More climate damaging gases could be on the table for Western Australia after leaked documents have suggested the state’s Environmental Protection Authority has reaffirmed its recommendation to give Woodside’s Pilbara gas processing facility a 50-year extension to operate until 2070. This is in spite of more than 750 appeals filed against the proposal, which reflects public concern about the project’s contribution to dangerous climate change.

This extension could underpin the exploitation of new gas fields. There are 22 fossil fuel proposals sitting in the EPBC pipeline that could be approved at any time.  

The Climate Council said should Woodside’s plans to keep pumping more gas well into the second half of this century be approved, it would herald Australia’s largest global contribution to climate change, swamping any other national efforts to cut harmful emissions. 

Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie, said Australia’s main national environmental law currently fails to protect its precious species and ecosystems from the biggest threat they face: escalating climate change. 

“The EPBC Act has a gaping hole at its heart because it does not explicitly require the government to protect a safe and liveable climate for us all, or directly consider the destructive impact of harmful carbon pollution,” Ms McKenzie said.  

“Fossil fuel projects should not keep waltzing through this gap: project approvals should be paused until our Parliament has a chance to deal with it.”     

Head of Advocacy at the Climate Council, Dr Jennifer Rayner, said leaving climate out of Australia’s main national environment law is like playing in the World Cup without a goalie – it leaves the environment dangerously exposed.

“Without a strong and effective EPBC Act, fossil fuel projects will keep getting the go-ahead, putting Australian communities and our environment alike at risk from more bushfires, floods and extreme weather fuelled by climate change,” Ms Rayner said. 

“The International Energy Agency is clear: there can be no new investments in coal, oil or gas projects if the global energy sector is to meet its emission reduction targets and help avoid catastrophic climate change.

“The Federal Government needs to step on the accelerator with its reforms and bring a bill to Parliament so we can have the debate Australia needs about properly protecting our climate. 

“Waving through massive polluting projects while soft pedalling on environmental law reform is surely not the legacy this government hopes to leave.”

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