9 December 2019: As world leaders meet in Madrid to discuss urgent action to curb global carbon emissions, a new report by ActionAid Australia shows that Australian companies expanded their coal, oil and gas operations into more countries in 2018 and increased their potential carbon emissions.
The report, Undermining Women’s Rights: Digging Deeper reveals more than 130 planned and operational Australian fossil fuel projects in 2018. The operational projects alone have the potential to cause more than 2.7 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, a 13 per cent increase from the previous year.
This equates to approximately 370 million tonnes of additional carbon emissions potentially being released into the atmosphere which is more than 69 per cent of Australia’s total national greenhouse gas emissions in the past year.
The report also shows the largest potential carbon footprints are overwhelmingly in coal and located in Africa. Close to 1.9 of the 2.7 billion tonnes of potential carbon emissions – nearly two thirds of the total – can be attributed to just seven coal projects owned by only three companies in South Africa.
ActionAid Australia Executive Director, Michelle Higelin said that it was irresponsible for Australian mining companies to continue expanding operations at a time when urgent climate action is needed.
“Climate change is causing unprecedented bushfires raging across Australia. An estimated sixty million people in southern and eastern Africa are going hungry due to severe drought. And our Pacific neighbours face increasingly frequent cyclones and flooding.
“Yet Australian companies continue to fuel irreversible climate change by funding coal, oil and gas exploitation both in Australia and overseas. It’s time for Australia to step up and take urgent climate action.”
ActionAid Australia’s work with mining affected communities in South Africa shows that mining is also having a damaging impact on efforts to achieve gender equality by restricting women’s access to land, their livelihoods and food security.
“Women, especially those from poor and marginalised communities, often bear the brunt of the adverse consequences from the social and environmental damage caused by the extraction of coal, oil and gas,” Ms Higelin said.
“The overall quality of life for the 80,000 people living in Phola, South Africa where there are 15 mines in operation, is going backwards with girls increasingly dropping out of school and forced into the sex trade for survival. Communities report pollution and damage to buildings as a result of mining, and women are being excluded from decision making and resource benefits.”
“Private sector investment has been hailed as a solution to alleviating poverty but without equal investment in human development and gender equality, it is failing. Mining is delivering far worse outcomes for this community, including long term damage to the environment that will only further deepen poverty and inequality.”
Ms Higelin said while ASX-listed companies continue to invest in fossil fuels projects in low income countries, Australia must acknowledge its responsibility to support the poorest and most marginalised people in countries that are struggling to adapt to climate change.
“It is critical that Australia commit to a target for climate finance that is reflective of its historical and future contributions to carbon emissions, and its fair share of global climate finance.”
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