Govt. Faces Hard Choices on Gas & Coal as Safeguard Deal Caps Emissions

Australia Institute

The Safeguard Mechanism deal between Labor and the Greens is an improvement on the original legislation but still falls short of what the world’s climate scientists, the United Nations and the International Energy Agency say is required.

The package will allow new fossil fuel projects to commence. Importantly, however, it places a cap on emissions by facilities covered under the scheme that will ensure a large portion of coal and gas proposals in Australia cannot proceed.

Further legislative reform will be required to reduce Australia’s emissions as the impacts of climate change continue to intensify.

Key Points in new Safeguard Package:

  • Package will still allow new coal, oil and gas projects to proceed – albeit fewer of them
  • Includes a cap on emissions that ratchets down over time and requires real (not net) emissions cuts
  • Beetaloo gas project will need to be 100% carbon offset from day 1
  • New gas projects will need to be 100% Co2 offset from day 1
  • Improved integrity measures around carbon offsets, in line with expert concerns

Key Points:

  • IEA and the UN say that no new fossil fuel projects can be approved in order to avoid ‘the worst effects of climate change’ by limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C
  • Australia Institute research shows there are currently 116 fossil fuel projects in the pipeline, which would contribute 4.8b tonnes of pollution until 2030, 24x the claimed safeguard emissions cuts
  • The Australia Institute’s recent Climate of the Nation report reveals record levels of support for action on climate change in Australia
    • A majority of Australians (57%) support Australia following the IEA pathway, to not approve any new gas, coal or oil projects
    • Two-thirds (64%) of Australians support stopping new coal mines
    • Three-quarters (73%) think Australian governments should plan to phase out coal mining and transition into other industries

“It is the job of political parties to negotiate with each other but unfortunately we can’t negotiate with the atmosphere,” said Dr Richard Denniss, executive director of the Australia Institute.

“While this deal will mean less pollution and less major fossil fuel projects, the world’s scientists have made it clear that the climate crisis requires an end to fossil fuel expansion and subsidies.

“The hard cap on actual emissions from actual polluters created by today’s announcement is a significant step away from the Government’s sole focus on carbon offsets and support for unlimited fossil fuel expansion.

“The new hard cap on pollution will force hard choices about whether to use Australia’s new emissions budget on new coal and gas projects, or for refining critical minerals like lithium as the world moves towards a clean economy.

“Allowing new coal and gas projects to be built in Australia is not in line with science, or indeed the majority of voters, 57% of which support a ban on new coal and gas projects.

“While Australia can still open up new gas and coal, remains the third largest exporter of fossil fuels, and spends $11.6b on subsidies this package is not enough.

“The work to bring integrity to Australia’s climate policy remains urgent for this Parliament and the next.”

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