“If they don’t believe the science, they can fuck off:” Forrest backs coal and gas ban

Dr Andrew Forrest during the the Eighth Bali Process Ministerial Conference in Adelaide (AAP Image/Matt Turner) NO ARCHIVING

Iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest has called on leaders of all political stripes to get serious about climate action, or get out of the way, in a feisty exchange over the Greens’ new bid to block new fossil fuel projects in Australia.

During the half-year results call for Fortescue Metals Group on Wednesday, Forrest was asked his opinion on the Australian Greens’ offer to the Albanese government, extended just last night, to back its proposed safeguard mechanism reforms – but only if Labor agrees to stop opening new coal and gas mines.

As RenewEconomy has reported, the deal essentially forces federal Labor – having won the 2022 May election on a platform of strong and credible climate action – to once and for all nail its colours to the mast on fossil fuels.

“If Labor’s scheme falls over, it will be because Labor wants to open new coal and gas mines. Labor has to decide how much it wants new coal and gas mines,” Greens lead Adam Bandt said.

In the mainstream media, the general hot take is that this move has essentially put a bomb under Labor’s entire carbon reduction mechanism plan, in a classic example of letting the perfect get in the way of the good.

Does Twiggy agree?

In a word, no.

“People who do not understand the grave risk of climate change should not be in any position of influence,” Forrest said.

“We’re on a climate edge here, and I want every legislator, not just in the Greens, not just in Labor, not just in Liberal or in the [Nationals], every legislator in the world to bring themselves up to speed with the science.

“If they don’t believe the science then they can just fuck off. Right? They should be nowhere near having any responsibility, whatsoever,” he said.

“Every legislator in the world should bring themselves up to speed on the science and act accordingly.”

“We’re off to the races!”

Politics aside, Fortescue on Wednesday delivered a strong half-year result, reporting billion-dollar profits and big plans for its green arm, Fortescue Future Industries – including to reach financial close on five projects over the course of the coming year.

In comments during a call with analysts and media, FFI CEO Mark Hutchinson said the decarbonisation of the Group’s operations in the Pilbara was the “number one priority” for the company.

“We came out and told the market will spend $6.2 billion on fully decarbonising this company, and we’re off to the races,” Hutchinson said.

Just on Wednesday, FFI announced that Hybrid Systems Australia had delivered Western Australia’s largest network-integrated battery energy storage system as a part FGM’s Pilbara Energy Connect project, which aims to power the miner’s Pilbara iron ore operations with renewable energy.

The 42MW (13MWh) of interconnected battery storage has been installed and commissioned for two Fortescue mine sites, making it one of the world’s largest network-connected BESS to be developed for a mining application. You can read more on that here.

“[Pilbara Energy Connect] is solar, it’s going to be wind, we’re going to be feeding …renewable resources down the veins of our transmission lines in the Pilbara and a lot of focus in on trucks, trains and making sure everything else is pollution free,” Hutchinson said.

FFI’s head of decarbonisation, Christian Heyning elaborated, saying the plan is to accelerate the build-out of solar already underway, while “gearing up for significant additional investments … on additional green energy infrastructure.”

“We haven’t taken [final investment decision] on those yet,” Heyning added, “but we will expect to do so in the next 12 months or so.”

On the five green projects FFI says it expects to reach financial close, Hutchinson said he was confident those projects were “very bankable.”

“If you start with the off-take [for the projects], the off-take is going to be Germany, it’s going to be Singapore, it’s going to be Japan, Korea.

“So from from a bankability perspective, I believe these projects will be very bankable.

“On the equity side, we have the option to do it ourselves or bring in partners. And there’s enormous amount of capital out there waiting for us to to come up with projects,” he said.

“We’ve talked to many investors, including some of the sovereigns, and the fact we have a pipeline of projects is extremely interesting to them.

“So look, that’s the way we’ll finance them: We will build these, we will operate them and we will be very smart about the way we finance them.”

From Forrest, the message on Fortescue’s green technology progress is that it is onwards and upwards – and when in doubt, make it yourself.

“We’re growing our own technology here, furiously,” he told the earnings call. “We’re a technology company [and] we’ll soon be a manufacturing company.

“But for green technology, I don’t think we have a peer in the world.”

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