Australia’s Senate Inquiry recognises “massive climate harm” of coal mine methane but fails to tackle it

On 27 February Ember gave evidence to the Australian Government’s Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications’ Inquiry into the Safeguard Mechanism, providing evidence on the scale of methane pollution from Australia's coal mines and cost-effective methods for reducing these.

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This is an analysis of Australia’s Safeguard mechanism reforms and the final report of the federal Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications’ Inquiry into the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022.

The analysis focuses on coal mine methane emissions, in which the team preparing this note have expertise and up to date knowledge of the issue in Australia and globally.

Acknowledgement of Country

Ember acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the many nations across Australia and their enduring connection to Country and the lands, seas and skies. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Indigenous Peoples today.

Executive Summary

On March 8 2023 Australia’s federal Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications handed down its findings from an inquiry into the Australian government’s proposed reforms to the safeguard mechanism.

The Senate Committee recognised the “massive climate harm” arising from Australia’s coal mine methane emissions, relying upon Ember’s research and evidence of the scale of Australia’s coal mine methane problem. But the Senate Committee’s final recommendations missed a key opportunity to tackle this problem and deliver on the Australian government’s commitments to lower its greenhouse gas emissions, including a 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030.

Our key takeaways from the inquiry are that:

This policy paper provides an overview of the proposed safeguard mechanism reforms and how they could be strengthened to tackle Australia’s coal mine methane problem. We also share our analysis of the key findings of the Senate Committee’s final report on the safeguard mechanism reforms and next steps.

Key Recommendations

  • Improve MRV standards to accurately measure coal mine methane emissions
    All coal mines should be required to implement best practice methane measurement and monitoring, equivalent to Level 5 of the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0.
  • Limitations should be placed upon the use of ACCUs and SMCs by the energy sector to offset their methane emissions
    The safeguard mechanism should be amended to incentivise the mitigation of coal mine methane onsite, which Ember’s analysis has found is both technically and economically feasible.


Full response by Ember's Coal Mine Methane Team

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