Australia passes law to force biggest carbon polluters reduce emissions
The nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitters will have to decrease their emissions or purchase carbon credits as a result of groundbreaking new regulations passed by the Australian Parliament on Thursday. According to the center-left Labor Party administration, the so-called Safeguard Mechanism measures are crucial for Australia to meet its goals of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and a 43% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by the end the decade. The nation’s emissions will be capped under the measures, which go into effect on July 1. Australia’s 215 worst polluting plants will be required to cut their emissions by 4.9% year or buy carbon credits to meet the target.
The legislation establish Australia’s first carbon pricing since a previous Labor administration implemented a carbon tax in 2012. In 2014, a conservative administration eliminated the tax, and ever since, it has opposed any climate policy that would penalise polluters.
The proposals were approved by the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 32 to 26, with Labor senators receiving backing from the unaffiliated and minuscule Greens party. No new coal and gas extraction projects were to be permitted, according to the Greens, who have 11 senators, in the beginning of discussions with Labor. Yet, the Greens are confident that if emissions were properly capped, just half of the 116 new coal and gas projects in Australia would proceed.
The measure was opposed by the Liberal Party and the Nationals party, which together made up the conservative coalition government that was ousted from office in 2022 after almost ten years in power.
Ted O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the opposition on climate change and energy, claimed that limiting emissions will increase costs for Australians while driving Australian industrial investment offshore to China and India. Australia’s government claims that without the system, emissions there would only be reduced by 35% by the end of the decade.
The ceiling on emissions will gradually be lowered, and it will not allow emissions to rise over Australia’s annual pollution level of 140 million metric tonnes (154 million U.S. tonnes).
Large polluters would be permitted to purchase carbon credits to aid in meeting their emission reduction goals, but those who used carbon credits to offset more than 30% of their emissions would need to justify their decision.
According to the government, the changes will remove two-thirds of Australia’s automobiles from the road in the same amount of time as 205 million metric tonnes (226 million U.S. tonnes) of greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s transportation sector by 2030.
When they were in power in 2016, the conservative parties established the Safeguard Mechanism. The 215 top polluters, who are responsible for approximately 30% of Australia’s emissions, were allowed to boost their emissions by 4% due to the extremely high emission limitations.
The previous administration’s goal was to reduce Australia’s emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030, which was less aggressive.
Leading climate communicator The Climate Council referred to the changes as the first Australian law to restrict greenhouse gas emissions in ten years.
According to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, which speaks for oil and gas companies, the amendments make it more difficult to utilise gas as a stable alternative to renewable energy sources and as a means of weaning Australia off of more destructive coal. Later on Thursday, the Senate modifications were approved by the House of Representatives, where Labor maintains a majority of the seats. On Monday, the House approved the measures’ initial draught.