A judge using his gavel.

Human rights and environmental organisation, Jubilee Australia, has filed legal proceedings against two Federal Government agencies that subsidised new fossil fuel projects, stating they did so without disclosing the full impact on the environment. 

Jubilee is represented by Equity Generation Lawyers.

The claim is against Export Finance Australia (EFA) which is Australia’s export credit agency, and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), a $7 billion fund for infrastructure in northern Australia. Both provide taxpayer subsidised finance for new fossil fuel and related projects that would otherwise not go ahead.

Executive Director of Jubilee Australia, Dr Luke Fletcher, said that most people don’t realise that the Australian Government is using taxpayers’ money to fund new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure, through agencies like EFA and NAIF.

“The real environmental impacts of EFA and NAIF’s activities are enormous and taxpayers deserve to know,” Mr Fletcher said.  

“Over the past decade they have given over a billion dollars to some of the most polluting fossil fuel projects in the world that will lock in fossil fuel dependency for decades to come and undermine Australia’s climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.  

“With the stroke of a pen, the Australian Government could put an end to these destructive subsidies.

“We hoped that the Climate Change Act 2022 and the Consequential Amendments Act 2022 would help embed emissions reductions into the objectives and functions of key agencies and government departments. 

“Despite this, EFA and NAIF still have the power to support major fossil fuel projects and infrastructure – and, perversely, they continue to fail to adequately report on how the fossil fuel projects they have made possible impact our climate. 

“Examples of support include a $164.2 million loan to the Ichthys LNG plant, a $254.7 million guarantee for the Gladstone LNG terminal that opened up Australia’s fossil gas exports to the world, something which ultimately contributed to huge increases in the costs of fossil gas for Australians when Russia invaded Ukraine, and Australia’s domestic prices were pegged to international markets. 

“Other environmentally damaging projects cited by the claim include Senex Energy’s fracking project in the Surat Basin, the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal and the Olive Downs Coal Project.  

“There are very real fears that without clearer climate commitments, EFA and NAIF could fund infrastructure in Darwin designed to support a massive expansion of fossil gas – such as Middle Arm, or to subsidise some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies such as TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil’s Papua LNG project in Papua New Guinea, similar to what EFA has previously done.”

Principal Lawyer at Equity Generation Lawyers, David Barnden, said this landmark case is the first in Australia that asks government agencies to own up to the real climate impacts of their activities. 

“This action could set a precedent for other government entities to report the true impacts of their activities,” Mr Barnden said. 

“Taxpayers deserve transparency about how the Federal Government’s subsidies contribute to broad environmental harm.”

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