A planned school student climate protest threatens to derail West Australian Premier Roger Cook’s green energy message in the state’s first-ever energy transition summit on Friday.
The strike will intensify scrutiny of the summit at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, which has drawn ire from environmental groups due to the heavy presence of gas lobbyists and companies at an event billed by Cook as a chance to chart WA’s course to becoming a “global green energy superpower”.
The school strike for climate will take place outside WA Premier Roger Cook’s energy summit on Friday.Credit: Lauren Pilat
The peaceful strike is the WA iteration of the National Schools Strike 4 Climate and is the fifth year that Australian students have wagged school to demand governments end coal and gas projects and adopt more ambitious targets like net-zero emissions and 100 per cent public renewable energy by 2030.
Margaret River student and WA strike organiser Emma Heyink, 17, said hundreds of protestors would walk from Woodside’s headquarters to the summit, to send the message that her generation wanted action on climate change that didn’t involve gas.
“We’d really like to make sure that we’re getting across the message that we won’t stand for the greenwashing and gaslighting that happens in conferences like this,” she said.
“There’s a lot of politicians, you’ve got fossil fuel representatives … these aren’t the people who have the best interests of the community or the future of people like me, yet they hold all the power to make the decisions.
As well as politicians, major WA gas producers including Woodside, Chevron and BP will feature at the CEDA-organised event, as well as gas lobby groups Australian Energy Producers and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy.
A breakout session at the event will specifically look at gas and the energy transition.
Beach Energy major shareholder Seven Group Holdings’ boss Ryan Stokes was also flagged as a major drawcard by Cook.
Woodside chief executive Meg O’Neill and BP hydrogen Australia vice president Lucy Nation will feature on a panel alongside WA Mines, Petroleum, Energy and Hydrogen Industry Minister Bill Johnston and Net Zero Australia’s Katherin Domansky to discuss “infrastructure for a green transition”.
The event features plenty of speakers from renewables and critical minerals-focused organisations including the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Lynas Rare Earths, and renewable energy-focused companies like Fortescue Future Industries and Pilbara Solar.
But Greenpeace Australia Pacific clean transition head Jess Panegyres was concerned the summit was too stacked with gas players and featured no experts in climate science.
“This summit could deliver some fantastic things – a clean jobs and industry plan, a transition plan out of gas, and a 2030 emissions reduction target, but we’re worried those positive outcomes will be blocked by the gas industry, which has a vested interest in preventing real action on climate and clean energy,” she said.
The September update to the International Energy Agency’s road map to net-zero reiterated that no new long-term oil and gas projects can be started and demand for fossil fuels needs to decline by 80 per cent if the globe is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5C.
Cook recently returned from a trip to Japan, where he sought to allay the fears of major customers of WA gas and declared his government still supported the sector.
Responding to the school strike and Greenpeace’s criticism, Cook again reiterated his support for gas as a transition fuel.
“My hope is that the summit is a constructive conversation, where everyone in the room – including groups like Greenpeace – can both listen and have their say on our state’s path forward,” he said.
“We welcome that young people in WA take such an interest in our state’s future – people are passionate about this topic, and that’s a good thing.
“It’s why the summit will include a panel session where I put questions to some of our state’s young innovators in the clean energy space – so those at the summit can hear directly from the next generation on an issue that will impact them.”
A CEDA spokeswoman said speakers representing the gas industry would appear at three of the 13 sessions on the day, including the gas transition session.
She said some environmental groups had registered to attend, and the event covered a broad range of topics including manufacturing wind turbines and batteries, how to decarbonise industries like mining and gas and how to encourage community support for the energy transition.
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