One of Australia’s most photographed tourist destinations – the limestone piles known as the Twelve Apostles off the coast of Victoria – is within three miles of the new areas announced Tuesday for offshore oil and gas exploration.
Environmentalists said the liberation of the zones showed “nothing was off limits to the oil and gas industry” and that opening new offshore blocks for fossil fuels needed an urgent overhaul.
Last month, the world’s leading energy advisory organization, the International Energy Agency, said it was still possible to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but that the he exploration and exploitation of new fossil fuels were to stop this year.
“Even a national icon like the Twelve Apostles will not prevent the senseless liberation of an area,” said Jess Lerch, national activist for the Wilderness Society.
Area maps released by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources show that the area near the tourism icon begins south of the town of Port Campbell and extends towards the east, along the coastline made famous by the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles.
There are several operating gas fields west of the Twelve Apostles in the same Otway Basin, including pipelines to move fossil fuel to onshore facilities.
The Wilderness Society compared the release to “the auction of the Twelve Apostles to the oil and gas industry,” Lerch saying the ongoing annual releases of land and oceans for fossil fuel exploration “require an overhaul. urgent and complete ”.
She said: “Cutting up the oceans to hand them over to the fossil fuel companies is happening without any environmental consideration and without any meaningful space for the community to have a say.”
According to Parks Victoria, the Twelve Apostles are one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions.
Despite the name, there have never been 12 limestone piles on the site. Of the nine that were there at the start of the 21st century, two have collapsed. As the waves destroy the piles, new ones could form in the future.
The federal government announces new areas for offshore oil and gas exploration every year. Tuesday’s post includes 21 zones spread over six basins covering 80,000 km².
Lerch added: “This is really just the latest gruesome example of the Morrison government’s determination to side with the fossil fuel industry in thumbing its nose at experts advising us on what is needed to ensure a safe climate. “
Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the oil industry’s annual conference in a video address that oil and gas would “always” be a major contributor to the country’s economy.
Morrison said he wanted Australia to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions, but declined to take the steps of other major economies and set a 2050 target to meet it.
Announcing the new zones Tuesday morning, Resources Minister Keith Pitt said the publication was a “crucial part of the government’s gas stimulus package.”
He said: “This year’s press release provides opportunities in established oil and gas provinces with existing infrastructure as well as under-explored areas off Victoria, also within reach of existing infrastructure.
“This is consistent with the desire to carry out current projects as well as the potential to increase supply on the east coast market.
“Exploration will continue to play a key role in supporting Australia’s economic growth by encouraging investment in development prospects, as well as unlocking additional supply. “
Guardian Australia has asked the minister to address concerns about the Twelve Apostles and how new oil and gas exploration fits into the Paris climate agreement.