The Albanese government will introduce its Safeguard Mechanism reforms to the parliament this week, which would require Australia’s biggest polluters to reduce their emissions by 28% by 2030, amounting to a 4.9% yearly reduction for the next seven years.
The policy is vital if the Labor government is to meet its 43% emissions reduction target by 2030, and as the Liberal National Coalition decided it would not support the reforms, the Greens and crossbench now hold deciding votes.
Greens leader Adam Bandt says his party has “huge concerns” with parts of the Safeguard Mechanism scheme, including the use of offsets and the low emissions reduction targets. Nonetheless, the Greens say they are prepared to put those concerns aside if Labor agrees to stop opening new coal and gas projects.
Such a moratorium could be realised via an amendment to the safeguard legislation, or a new “climate trigger” in environmental law.
The Greens have made an offer to the government – we'll pass their Safeguard Mechanism changes with just one amendment:
To stop new coal and gas projects.
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) February 15, 2023
“Labor needs the Greens to get this through Parliament,” Bandt said. “If Labor’s scheme falls over, it will be because Labor wants to open new coal and gas mines.”
Unsurprisingly, fears about a new era of climate wars and “history repeating itself” have followed the Greens’ resolution.
The government wants the Safeguard Mechanism reforms in place by July 2023, but federal Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen has repeatedly said the government will not agree to a moratorium on new coal and gas.
Such a moratorium would affect over 100 coal and gas projects the Department of Industry, Resources and Energy has recorded as being either in development or under consideration.
Many of these projects amount to small expansions, but some like the Scarborough and Browse gas developments in Western Australia are set to become the biggest in the country.
“You can’t put the fire out while pouring petrol on it. The first step to fixing a problem is to stop making the problem worse,” Bandt said.
Recent data from the Australian Electoral Commission found at least $1.35 million (USD 940,000) in fossil fuel money flowed to the Labor, Liberal and Nationals parties.
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