The Greens have negotiated significant changes to the Safeguard Mechanism legislation that will impact on coal and gas, including stopping many of the new coal and gas projects in the development pipeline, freezing low integrity offset projects and putting in place a declining hard cap on the scheme to ensure Australia’s actual (not net) pollution goes down. In light of these and a package of other significant amendments, the Greens will support the Safeguard Mechanism legislation and regulations.
In brief, the Greens’ secured amendments include:
- A hard cap or ceiling on actual or absolute (gross) emissions, which won’t be able to exceed current pollution levels (140 MT per annum), and there will be a decreasing cap over time. Pollution will actually now go down, not up, and the coal and gas corporations can’t buy their way out of it with offsets. This puts a limit on coal and gas expansion in Australia. Actual pollution from safeguard entities was forecast to rise under Labor’s original safeguard, from about 140MT now to between 155-184MT in 2030.
- A pollution trigger in the Safeguard Mechanism Bill that will require the Climate Change Minister to test a new or expanded project’s impact on the hard cap and net carbon Budgets. If the assessment finds that the project would contribute to exceeding the cap or Budget, the Minister must consult and recalibrate the rules (such as by limiting ACCUs, reducing the value of ACCUs or adjusting the decline rates of baselines) or impose conditions on new entrants. Using these wide-ranging powers, the Minister could set baselines at zero and ACCU allowance at zero, effectively stopping a project from proceeding. The Minister’s action or lack of action would be subject to legal enforcement. Approvals under the EPBC and advice from the Climate Change Authority would trigger the assessment as would assessment of emissions data and forecasts.
- All Scope 1 emissions from the Beetaloo gas project will have to be net-zero with Scope 2 and 3 emissions referred to the Ministerial Energy Council. This will be a significant financial barrier in the way of the project proceeding.
- All new gas fields for LNG export will need to be net zero CO2 from day one.
- The agreement will significantly improve the integrity of ACCUs with a freeze on the most dubious offset class (Human Induced Regeneration) until they are subject to an independent audit.
- The Bill will include a requirement for incentives for onsite abatement and to ensure facilities are encouraged to actually cut pollution.
- Corporations will be required to justify their use of offsets if they use offsets for more than 30% of their baseline.
- A review by the CCA in 2026-27 will look at the use of offsets and implementing measures to restrict their use if on-site abatement isn’t occurring to satisfactory levels.
- The Powering the Regions fund will not be used to fund coal or gas projects.
- The grant funding power the Liberal government used to subsidise fossil fuel projects will be changed in the Act to prevent funding for extracting coal and gas.
- Increased methane monitoring, leading to greater coal and gas emissions reductions.
- A Climate Change Authority-led sectoral emission reduction plans to make it harder for coal and gas projects to get financed and to support the litigation of greenwashing.
- For the first time the Act will require reporting of all types of gases and offset generation use creating greater transparency and pressure on corporations to do more.
As stated by Greens Leader Adam Bandt MP:
“Coal and gas have taken a huge hit. The Greens have stopped many of the 116 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline from going ahead, pollution will actually go down, and we’ve derailed the Beetaloo and Barossa gas fields.
“Coal and gas pollution was set to soar under Labor’s safeguard. The Greens have introduced a hard cap on emissions, meaning real pollution must actually come down and the coal and gas corporations can’t buy their way out of the cap with offsets. This puts a limit on coal and gas expansion in Australia. Pollution will now go down, not up, as it was set to under Labor.
“We’ve secured a pollution trigger that, for the first time in history, means new projects must be assessed for their impact on climate pollution and they can be stopped. Labor now has the power to stop coal and gas projects that would breach the pollution cap. Every new coal and gas project that gets approved from here on in is Labor’s direct responsibility.
“With our significant amendments, the Greens will be voting to pass the Bill and will back the regulations but the fight against all new coal and gas continues.
“In balance of power, the Greens have stopped many of the 116 coal and gas projects in the pipeline from proceeding, and now we’re coming after the rest.
“To everyone who is despairing about the future and wants real climate action, today you should have a spring in your step, because it shows we can take on the coal and gas corporations and win.
“The fight is not over, because in the middle of a climate crisis, Labor still wants to open more coal and gas.
“With a Senate willing to act, the only obstacle to stopping all new coal and gas in this Parliament is Labor.
“We will continue to push to strengthen the environment laws that will come before the Parliament next year and to fight fossil fuel subsidies in the budget. We will back the fights of communities right around the country who are fighting these coal and gas projects in the pipeline, including Scarborough and Narrabri. We will build a movement like this country has never seen to stop Labor opening the rest of the 116 coal and gas mines.”
As stated by Greens spokesperson for Resources and First Nations Senator Dorinda Cox:
“The Beetaloo and Barossa projects have been derailed. There are serious questions raised about whether these climate bombs will be financially viable now, raising a red flag to investors pouring money into these projects.
“This is a big day for the Greens movement, but an even bigger day for the Traditional Owners and mob whose lands and waters are under threat from the climate bombs that are Barossa and Beetaloo projects. I have stood in solidarity with you, on-Country, and witnessed first hand how these companies and their projects would destroy your way of life.
“To the 8 Tiwi clan groups led by the Munupi clan, and the more than 60 native title holders that formed the Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation, this is a moment you can share in. Free, Informed Prior Consent was never given before the government allowed your sacred sites, land and sea Country to be destroyed by fossil fuel companies.
“It’s the determination and perseverance of First Nations people, and with Greens in balance of power, we can hold this Labor Government accountable to engaging and working with mob and taking real action on climate change.
“This is an important first step, but our work is not over. We will continue to push the Government further and faster, and continue our campaign for no new coal and gas projects.”