Despite the IPCC report calling for urgent action in the face of climate emergency, the Victorian government has given a fossil fuel company permission to drill for gas under a national park near the Twelve Apostles.

The latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was dire in its predictions for humanity’s future, ruling that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of extreme changes to the climate, including heatwaves, floods, droughts, melting polar ice/glaciers, and of course rising sea levels.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said that abolishing the fossil fuel industry is the only way we can save ourselves from catastrophic climate change, saying that “there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.”

“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” he said.

“[This report] is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

But despite the alarming rate we are releasing emissions into our atmosphere, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio consented to the development of an already existing gas well underneath the Port Campbell national park into a production well.

As per The Guardian, the SA oil and gas company Beach Energy has had permission to explore for gas just outside the national park since May 2019, and it could begin extracting commercial quantities of gas from the reservoir.

While the onshore drill site is just outside the park, the bore actually extends 3.5km out into the ocean, including a 1.3km underneath the national park. Plus, the drill site is only roughly 5km from popular tourist site the Twelve Apostles and the Great Ocean Road.

Victorian Greens deputy leader Ellen Sandell has commented on the distressing developments, saying state support for fossil fuel expansion is “bonkers” and said people would be a lot less likely to visit the Twelve Apostles “if it’s surrounded by gas drilling rigs”.

“The risks are very profound for our climate. We know that burning any more gas is contributing to more fires, more floods,” she told The Guardian.

“There’s also risks to the marine environment – this is an area that is a migratory path for humpback whales and the southern wright whale.”

A Victorian government spokesperson assured that the Twelve Apostles are protected as a marine national park, separate to the Port Campbell national park, and that no drilling would occur within its boundaries – but during a time where any use of fossil fuels is going to exacerbate climate change, that’s hardly reassuring.

The proposal to drill for gas under the national park isn’t final, and still requires approval from the state’s resources regulator.

Earth Resources Regulation executive director Anthony Hurst said that if gas extraction went ahead, the site would be inspected regularly for gas leaks and subject to “quite stringent monitoring requirements.”

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.