The policy of net zero emissions by 2050 and the green legal activism that it encourages have come at a great cost to Australians. They have contributed to escalating electricity prices, increasing cost of living pressures, and job insecurity in rural and regional areas. Southwest Queensland, which consists of Toowoomba, Darling Downs-Maranoa and immediately adjacent areas, has been and will continue to be among the hardest hit.
The purpose of this report is to study the effect that the policy of net zero emissions by 2050 and green legal activism are having on the resources sector in Southwest Queensland. This is done by analysing two sets of resource projects in the pipeline for the region:
- The first is a set of projects at risk of cancellation under net zero, which have gone through the federal government’s environmental approval process. There are currently 8 coal and gas projects planned for Southwest Queensland in this category based on the most recently available data from the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.1 The economic cost of the cancellation of these projects is estimated to amount to $34 billion worth of foregone economic output and the cancellation of approximately 57,000 new jobs.
- The second is a set of projects currently going through the federal government’s environmental approval process but which are threatened to be shut down through the actions of the Environment Council of Central Queensland and its lawyers, Environmental Justice Australia. These activists are calling for the Federal Minister for the Environment to reconsider initial environmental assessment decisions which have already been granted to 19 critical resources projects all across Australia. Two of these are new projects in Southwest Queensland.2 Their potential economic impact on the region is estimated to be $13 billion. Their potential employment impact is estimated to be approximately 20,000 jobs.
The total economic impact of net zero and green legal activism on Southwest Queensland is estimated to amount to approximately $47 billion. This is the equivalent to over 220% of its annual gross regional product or more than two years’ worth of economic activities.
The total employment impact amounts to over 77,000 jobs, which is the equivalent to 56% of the current workforce in the local area.
This report extends the methodology employed in an earlier report, published in April 2022, by the Institute of Public Affairs, The Economic and Employment Consequences of Net Zero Emissions by 2050 in Australia. That report estimated the cost of the policy of net zero by 2050 nationwide to be $274 billion in foregone economic output and the cancellation of 478,000 jobs. The result was derived through analysing the employment and economic potential of 89 resource projects in the pipeline across the nation, all of which will need to be abandoned if Australia were to achieve net zero.
Toowoomba and Darling Downs-Maranoa are among the hardest hit regions. Southwest Queensland, which had already been experiencing economic decline since before the adoption of net zero, became even further entrenched in an economic slump.
Between the years 2000 and 2015, on average, approximately 115 new jobs were created every month in Toowoomba and Darling Downs-Maranoa. Since 2015, this has collapsed by more than half to just 50 jobs per month. By contrast, the total number of working-aged people has increased by 135 per month. This is more than double the number of jobs created over the period.
Average employment to population ratio between 2000 and 2015 was 62%. By 2022, this number has declined to 58%.
Over the last year, since the Australian Government adopted the policy of net zero emissions by 2050, the region has lost around 2,000 jobs.