Australia’s Lower House of Parliament on Monday passed an emissions reduction plan with curbs on some new gas and coal investments and a cap on total greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s biggest polluters after a key deal with the Greens Party.
According to media reports, the “Safeguard Mechanism” reform legislation is key to the Labour government’s pledge to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 in a country that ranks as one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters per capita.
Weeks of talks with the Greens Party, whose support is needed in the upper house Senate, yielded changes including a hard total emissions cap, ministerial review for projects that raise total emissions and compulsory disclosures for polluters that rely heavily on carbon offsets to meet their targets, the reports said.
The updated legislation also requires all new gas projects in the Beetaloo Basin to have net-zero carbon emissions and new gas fields supplying existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants to have net-zero reservoir emissions, imposing new costs.
“Today, we are a step closer to achieving net zero by 2050,” Energy Minister Chris Bowen said.
The plan, due to take effect on July 1 this year, aims to make about 215 oil, gas, mining and manufacturing facilities that annually emit more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent cut their emissions by 30% over the next seven years.
Under the revised legislation, projects such as the massive Browse field that Woodside Energy wants to develop would have to have carbon capture and storage to achieve net zero.
The government said it would provide $266 million to help the cement, steel and aluminium industries decarbonise.
Under the mechanism, the country’s top emitting facilities would have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 4.9% a year by 2030, will now also restrict the use of carbon offsets, the Greens said.
“Coal and gas pollution was set to soar under Labour’s safeguard,” Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt said in a statement. “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.”
Australia’s Labour government came to power in May 2022 with a vow to reverse the nation’s reputation as a climate laggard. While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has tightened national emissions targets, his administration has also faced criticism over its support for some coal and gas developments.
An immediate ban on future gas projects would be “irresponsible”, Energy Minister Chris Bowen said earlier in March, adding that the fuel will be necessary to complement a transition to the government’s target of 82% renewable generation by 2030.