Home > Origin Energy faces shareholder backlash over climate, fracking and Traditional Owner concerns

Origin Energy faces shareholder backlash over climate, fracking and Traditional Owner concerns

20 October 2021

20 October 2021

Strong opposition to Origin’s plans to open up the giant Beetaloo gas basin in the Northern Territory to fracking was voiced by Traditional Owners at the company’s AGM today, while votes on shareholder proposals delivered significant investor rebukes to Origin’s approaches to climate change and Traditional Owner engagement.

A huge 44% of shareholders voted against Origin’s board and in favour of a resolution lodged by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), calling on the company to align its capital expenditure with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C. 37% of investors also called on Origin to ensure the industry associations it is a member of advocate consistently with the Paris climate goals.

Origin must act on this clear demand from investors, and immediately drop its plans to explore and develop new gas fields, including Beetaloo.

However, investors failed to show the same level of support for other critical shareholder proposals, which were coordinated by GetUp and called for:

  • Water quality baseline surveying and consultation with Traditional Owners on cultural water flows relating to fracking plans
  • Traditional Owner Cultural Heritage protections
  • Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Traditional Owners to be obtained for any planned operations

Alignment with 1.5°C means no new gas

In his opening address, Origin Chair Scott Perkins acknowledged ‘the extent of voting in favour’ of ACCR’s 1.5°C capital alignment resolution, and said part of Origin’s emissions reduction work will ‘ensure Origin’s capital allocation process matures so that it can support achievement of Origin’s carbon commitments, including being consistent with a 1.5°C pathway.’

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has confirmed that reaching net zero emissions in the energy sector by 2050, and having a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, means there is no room for new gas fields to be developed. So Mr Perkins’ comments would suggest the company will not allocate any further capital to exploring and developing new gas fields.

Yet Origin plans to spend a further $75-85 million on gas exploration and appraisal in the Beetaloo and Canning basins in financial year 2022, demonstrating the company’s continuing plans to develop these new gas fields.

The obvious contradiction between these gas expansion plans and Origin’s climate commitments raises potential legal and regulatory risks, with lawyers and ASIC noting significant concerns around greenwashing, and another Australian energy company, Santos, currently being sued over the issue.

When asked how the board was managing the potential legal and regulatory risks associated with misalignment between climate commitments and action, Mr Perkins attempted to downplay the incompatibility of new gas with global commitments, saying the IEA scenario was just one possible pathway to net zero by 2050.

But the overwhelming weight of scientific research and modelling leads to the same conclusion: limiting warming to 1.5°C means there is no room for new gas.

Investors must hold Origin to this fact, and demand the company manage stop pursuing new projects and manage down gas production in line with a credible 1.5°C scenario.

Traditional Owner concerns dominate AGM

In addition to the shareholder resolutions relating to Traditional Owners’ concerns over Origin’s dirty gas operations and plans, the majority of questions from shareholders and proxies attending today’s online AGM focused on these issues as well.

In these videos you can hear:

  • Gillian and Aunty Naomi from the Minyerri community, and Aunty May of Alawa Country telling Origin they don’t want fracking on their land
  • Seed National Director Amelia Telford asked if Origin Energy will frack Yawuru Country on behalf of Yawuru Traditional Owner Micklo Corpus
  • GetUp First Nations campaigner Larissa Baldwin ask if Origin will ensure its projects have a comprehensive cultural water mapping survey undertaken, to better understand the cultural interconnection between groundwater and surface water across and near the Origin permit areas in the NT.

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