Green Group Files Climate Lawsuit Against Australian Gas Major Santos

Highlights :

  • Santos said that it aims to get to net zero by 2040 with the help of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects – including plans to store carbon dioxide in depleted oil and gas fields – and with soil carbon projects such as tree planting.
  • CCS, which is mainly used today for enhanced oil recovery projects, is seen by green groups as untested and unnecessarily prolonging the life of the fossil fuel industry.

In a landmark move, green group Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) is suing oil and gas major Santos Ltd, challenging the company’s claims that natural gas provides “clean energy” and that it has a “credible and clear plan” to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2040 in the Federal Court of Australia.

This is the first court case in the world to challenge the veracity of a company’s net zero emissions target, and a world-first test case in relation to the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the environmental impacts of blue hydrogen, says Australia-based ACCR.

Acting on behalf of ACCR, lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) claim that Santos is engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct in potential contravention of both corporate and consumer law.

EDO is the largest environmental legal centre in the Australia Pacific, dedicated to protecting climate, communities and shared environment by providing access to justice, running groundbreaking litigation and leading law reform advocacy.

Companies around the world have set out ambitious targets to be carbon neutral within the next 20 to 30 years, under pressure from investors concerned about climate change.

In 2020, Santos said that it aims to get to net zero by 2040 with the help of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects – including plans to store carbon dioxide in depleted oil and gas fields – and with soil carbon projects such as tree planting.

According to ACCR, Santos’ claims are misleading because the company has firm plans to increase its greenhouse gas emissions through the expansion of its natural gas operations, and has not yet decided whether to proceed with its net zero plans. Further, Santos’ net zero plans depend upon a range of undisclosed qualifications and assumptions about CCS processes.

Santos declined to comment on the matter before the court, but its spokesperson said the company stands by its statements, reported Reuters.

Despite carbon capture increasingly appearing in policymakers’ proposals to address climate change, existing CCS technologies have significant shortcomings that limit their ability to reduce or negate carbon emissions; current CCS processes are usually less economical than renewable sources of energy and most remain unproven at scale. Opponents also point out that many CCS projects have failed to deliver on promised emissions reductions.

“Santos has perfected the art of greenwashing, and shareholders continue to be misled by Santos’ clean energy claims,” ACCR’s director of climate and environment, Dan Gocher, said in a statement.

“To date the majority of CCS projects have failed. The technology is expensive and unreliable. As demonstrated by the Gorgon CCS project, even operating projects struggle to meet CO2 capture targets,” Gocher added.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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