One of the major uncertainties around fracking is the implications of carbon abatement policies and moves to manage climate change impacts1. As mentioned below Offset requirements could impact significantly on costs for companies involved in fracking. Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – 86 times more powerful when considered over a 20-year timeframe and 34 times more over a 100-year timeframe. The near-term consequences of methane emissions are very important in the context of the risks of climate tipping points and near-term temperature thresholds over the coming two decades.
The Gunner Government has suggested it may be able to purchase ‘offsets’ - agreements with other industries and jurisdictions to wind down emissions in order for NT pollution to increase - in an effort to mitigate the risk, however there is no framework in place for this to occur and the scale of emissions offsets required make such a program an unviable proposition.
Leading climate scientists have said in response:
We are at a point now where we simply have to get emissions down right across the economy, and across the world, and we can't avoid emission reductions by "offsetting" them. Offsets would mean someone else needs to do the job we should be doing, or - worse yet - we will try to use land carbon (growing forests) to "offset" fossil fuel emissions. This is scientifically invalid. Plus, there would be a lot of arguing and fightback if some other sectors in the economy were asked to reduce its emissions further (no doubt at significant cost to them) so the NT could increase its emissions because of fracking.
As the Northern Territory and Federal Governments move towards strictly enforceable emissions reductions commitments new fracking gasfields are incompatible with our obligations to meet these targets.
1 IPCC report Summary for Policy Makers October 2018