Undermining women's rights: Australia's global fossil fuel footprint

Sex differences Fossil fuels Mining Women Poverty
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Australia has one of the largest global mining footprints in the world, with the highest number of extractive companies operating in Africa. Yet analysis by both industry and civil society stakeholders has identified a concerning lack of publicly available information on the extent, nature and consequences of Australian extractive companies’ expanding global reach.

This report shines a light on a critically important, yet little-researched, aspect of Australia’s global mining presence: the fossil fuel industry. In particular, it examines the impacts of coal, oil and gas extraction on women in low income countries. From the sites of coal, oil and gas extraction to the places where natural disasters are becoming more ferocious and frequent, it is women living in poverty who are the most affected by the adverse consequences of the fossil fuel industry.

The gendered impacts of fossil fuel projects in affected communities include women’s exclusion from decisionmaking, as well as increased risk of food insecurity, unpaid labour, demand for sex work, gender-based violence, and HIV infection rates. It is also women who bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change that is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Women and children are 14 times more likely than men to be killed in disasters, and their unpaid care work and risk of experiencing gender-based violence also increases during these times.

Based on publicly available information, this report has found 150 coal, oil and gas projects that are either being operated or planned by 58 ASX listed companies in low income countries. Of these projects, 35 are operational, meaning that ASX listed companies are intending to increase the number of fossil fuel projects operating in low income countries fourfold.

These projects are heavily concentrated in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Indonesia, and South Africa. Two of these countries – PNG and Indonesia – are also the countries that receive the largest proportion of Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). The vast majority of companies also publicly disclose subsidiaries located in “secrecy jurisdictions”, which can indicate a risk of tax avoidance and minimisation practices. This underlines the need for improving transparency of extractives companies

This report finds that ASX listed companies’ operational fossil fuel projects in low income countries have potential carbon emissions equivalent to almost five years’ worth of Australia’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions, or 17 years of operation of Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine. The latest climate science indicates that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the carbon budget available could be exhausted as soon as 2020. When it is considered that the industry is also planning a further 115 fossil fuel projects, it is clear that these projects are inconsistent with efforts to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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