Australia, Canberra— With the minor Greens party announcing their support on Monday, the Australian government made a significant step toward passing a critical climate policy that would require the main emitters of greenhouse gases to reduce emissions.
The so-called Safeguard Mechanism measures, according to the center-left Labor Party administration, are crucial for Australia to meet its goal of lowering emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The changes would put a cap on the country’s emissions and compel Australia’s 215 most polluting enterprises to gradually cut their emissions.
Leading climate communicator The Climate Council referred to the changes as the first Australian law to restrict greenhouse gas pollution in ten years.
With the support of the 11 senators from the Green Party, the administration just needs two senators from minor or unaffiliated parties to pass the measures through the upper chamber. A “strict cap” on emissions, according to Greens leader Adam Bandt, would prevent half of the 116 new coal and gas projects in Australia from moving forward.
It is unknown how much greenhouse gas emissions are permitted under the cap. If polluters reduced their emissions, the cap would gradually be lowered.
In a statement to reporters, Bandt stated that his party supports the reforms and that “the Greens, via the talks, has obtained a major hit on oil and gas.”
The House of Representatives, where Labor maintains a majority of members, passed the bill on Monday.
The Safeguard Mechanism, according to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, “is the mechanism to meet our commitment for 43% reduction by 2030.”
Australian emissions would only be reduced by 35% by the end of the decade without the mechanism, according to Minister of Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.
We’re a lot closer now to getting the Safeguard Mechanism reforms through Parliament, according to Bowen.
According to Bowen, the changes will remove two-thirds of Australia’s cars from the road in the same amount of time as 205 million metric tons (226 million U.S. tons) of greenhouse gas emissions from Australia by 2030.
For the sake of achieving their emission reduction goals, large polluters would be able to purchase carbon credits. Polluters that utilize carbon credits to achieve more than 30% of their abatement, however, would need to give a justification for why they did not take additional steps to lower their own emissions.
Ted O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the opposition on energy and climate change, criticized the proposals, claiming that limiting emissions would push Australian industrial investment overseas to China and India.
This is a plan to deindustrialize the Australian economy, not to decarbonize it, according to O’Brien.
When it was in power in 2016, the conservative opposition established the Safeguard Mechanism. But the emission limits were so high that the 215 major polluters, which account for 30% of Australia’s emissions, were able to increase their emissions by 4%.
The previous administration had set a less aggressive goal for Australia’s emissions reduction by 2030, which was only 26% to 28% below 2005 levels.
The Climate Council applauded the Greens’ deal with the government as a historic agreement.
According to Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie, “This will be the Federal Parliament’s first reform to genuinely decrease pollution in a decade.”
Left-wing policy think tank The Australia Institute criticized the reforms for allowing some new fossil fuel projects to move forward, though fewer than under the existing mechanism.
The most crucial responsibility for the Australian Parliament, according to Glenn Walker, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Australia and the Pacific, is to reject new fossil fuel mines in favor of clean, sustainable enterprises.