Woodside has faced criticism for its blatant greenwashing as the public anger ramps up on climate inaction. This is obvious from reports of a “chaotic” annual general meeting in Perth on Thursday, stemming from environmentalists angry with the company’s intentions to dump toxic materials at sea, among other issues.

With an election on Saturday that is likely to be humanity’s last chance against the biggest existential threat faced by our planet, this is the critical moment for action on climate change, a stark reality that is no doubt motivating protesters. 

Just a glance at Woodside’s website reveals that the fossil fuel giant wishes to be perceived as clean and green, “aiming for net zero by 1050”.

“Woodside heavily promotes its green credentials to investors and the public. However, actions like its proposal to dump a toxic time bomb next to a world heritage area indicate otherwise,” says Dr Anita Cosgrove from Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

Yet the company’s explanatory memorandum to shareholders ahead of its merger with BHP Petroleum based indicative decommissioning costs on the assumption that some of the offshore infrastructure will be dumped at sea, Cosgrove contends.

The company previously recorded around $US2.1 billion for decommissioning liabilities, but this number was changed to $6.7 billion as shareholder approval to purchase BHP’s petroleum assets went ahead.  

For those of us that are not shareholders in Woodside a big problem is that major political parties’ policies heading into this election are not much different. Disillusioned voters often quip that “both options are as bad as each other”. Analysis shows that neither’s carbon targets go far enough. 

The LNP climate commitment of a 26-28 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 is consistent with 3-4 Celsius of global warming, the ALP’s 2030 target of a 43 per cent emissions reduction is consistent with 2 Celsius. 

University of Melbourne modelling found Australia needs to stick below 1.5 degrees, which requires a 75 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, with net zero by 2035. The Greens and the “Teal Independents” policies align with this and are consistent with 1.5 C of warming. 

The major parties seem to be leaning heavily on the smoke screen of unproven tech breakthroughs like clean hydrogen through electrolysis, and carbon capture and storage (CCS), even though CCS tech is unproven and hydrogen has its own problems.

Woodside has been accused of greenwashing a hydrogen plant in Kwinana dubbed PerthH2, which will be two-thirds fuelled by gas. The $1 billion “clean energy” project was announced by West Australian Premier Mark McGowan last year – without mentioning the word “gas”. 

David Ritter, chief executive officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific adds that the company has a long track record of skirting around regulations, “and has previously attracted the ire of the regulator, NOPSEMA [The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority], for its haphazard and risky approach to decommissioning its discarded oil and gas infrastructure”.

“Woodside is currently scrambling to push through its Scarborough gas development and pushing for approvals for its Browse field, which will see 54 gas wells drilled in the Scott Reef.” 

Cosgrove says Woodside plans to significantly increase the production of fossil fuels through the development of the Barrup hub project. 

“We know they can’t be trusted to take action to save the environment,” she said. 

“This company has repeatedly put profit ahead of marine wildlife safety and our national interest, and should not be allowed to go ahead with a further gas drilling project,” Ritter says.

But they are not alone. We need system change from not just Woodside but by every fossil fuel producing company in Australia and globally.

Keep that in mind when you go to vote on Saturday. 

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