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Greens want World Heritage Protection for Bight

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The Greens have unveiled a plan to protect the Great Australian Bight from oil exploration, calling for it to be given World Heritage Protection.

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The party’s five-point plan would also revoke existing permits for offshore drilling in the region, as protests continued in Norway over energy company Equinor’s plans to sink at least one exploration well.

The company on Wednesday is expected to consider a motion at its annual meeting in Oslo that would prevent it exploring in sensitive areas.

An alliance of people opposed to offshore oil production in the Bight was in Norway urging shareholders to support the motion which they believe would kill off the proposal.

Wilderness Society South Australian director Peter Owen said the level of support from the people of Norway had been humbling.

“What is at stake is not only one of the last big intact marine wilderness areas on the planet but also our planet’s ability to support life,”  Owen said.”

“We simply cannot expand the fossil fuel industry if we are to have any chance of a liveable climate for our children.”

In Adelaide, Greens leader Richard Di Natale detailed what he described as a comprehensive program to protect the Bight.

As well as World Heritage Listing and the scrapping of current exploration permits, the Greens would block any new offshore oil and gas projects, ban seismic testing and introduce a climate trigger that assessed large projects on their carbon pollution before approval.

“More oil and gas will fuel the climate emergency,” Di Natale said.

“Without a commitment to no new coal, oil or gas, no government can be taken seriously on climate action.”

Under its current proposal, Equinor wants to drill an exploratory well 370km off the SA coast.

If Stromlo-1 receives all necessary regulatory approvals, drilling is expected to start in the summer of 2020/21.

But the company said it would only go ahead if it could do so safely and with the approval of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

“We will take the time necessary to ensure our operations are safe for people, communities and the environment,” it said.

The Coalition has indicated it will be guided by NOPSEMA’s ruling on the proposal while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has committed an incoming Labor government to commission a study into the consequences of a future oil spill in the Bight.

-AAP

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