Energy giant's surprise 'near-zero' pledge

·2-min read

Environmental groups are concerned energy giant Woodside's pledge to commit to "near-zero" methane emissions ignores the biggest pollution issue at play.

The oil and gas behemoth is the first Australian company to sign on to the global initiative.

The international movement, led by fossil fuel industry figures, aims to meet the methane target by 2030.

"Signing this initiative is an example of our commitment to meeting our own emissions reduction targets and to encouraging our entire industry to join this effort," Woodside chief executive Meg O'Neill said on Friday.

Environmentalists have accused Woodside of using the announcement to distract from its significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Alex Hillman, from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, described the pledge as "a bit of window dressing".

"Most of this means they're effectively not going to do anything," he said.

"They've signed a number of these things over the years and they don't commit to anything that reduces the big sources of emissions."

Woodside said its methane emissions were less than 0.1 per cent, already below the target set by the initiative.

Roughly two per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions come from methane, while carbon dioxide accounts for 90 per cent.

Earlier this year, Woodside received approval for the Scarborough gas project, which will emit almost 1.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime -three times Australia's annual emissions.

The company has also received the green light to extend its North West Shelf gas development by 50 years.

The approval was conditional on Woodside achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

The North West Shelf project released 6.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide last year, more than any other Australian industrial facility.

Mr Hillman said the "near-zero" methane pledge was a distraction.

The carbon analyst accused Woodside of "hunting around for good news" and said there were no binding commitments or targets attached.

"Even if things like this initiative had more teeth, it still wouldn't really impact their overall emissions profile," he said.

Some of the world's biggest polluters, including the owners of the Karratha gas plant in Western Australia, are signatories to the methane pact.

In a recent report about Karratha, the companies involved did not commit to addressing the largest source of methane or carbon dioxide.

"It's just another industry association which is trying to say it's doing the right thing as a reason to perpetuate minimal changes which don't actually fix the problem," Mr Hillman said.