‘Bare minimum’ bid by Greens on carbon emissions policy
Maeve Bannister, Andrew Brown and Joanna Guelas |
Stopping new coal and gas projects is the “bare minimum” when it comes to cutting carbon emissions, say the Greens, as the federal government continues talks to pass a key election promise.
Parliament is debating the government’s proposed changes to the safeguard mechanism, which would apply to the 215 biggest emitters in the nation and aim to reduce emissions by 205 million tonnes by 2030.
With the coalition opposing changes to the policy it initiated in 2016, the government must negotiate support from the Greens and two other votes in the Senate to pass its election promise to cut carbon emissions.
In exchange for their support, the Greens want the government to stop opening new coal and gas projects.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said his party was still in discussions with the government and remained open to solutions to improve Labor’s proposal.
“We’re not asking for the perfect. We’re asking for the bare minimum,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“We will pass the government’s policy and put it into law if they just do one thing: stop making the problem worse.”
Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen has ruled out a ban on new coal and gas projects, but Mr Bandt said Australians had asked for real action on climate change at the 2022 election.
“The government’s vote went backwards at an election where the Greens vote and the independent vote went up because we were the only ones taking on the coal and gas industry,” he said.
“We understand we are not going to get everything we want but the government needs to shift as well.”
Crossbenchers have also proposed “sensible” amendments to the bill, believing the current mechanism does more to safeguard fossil fuel companies than act on the impacts of climate change.
Independent MP Helen Haines said negotiations with Mr Bowen were continuing and the cross bench was pushing for changes to strengthen the policy.
“We’re getting to the pointy end now and it’s not over until it’s over,” she said.
Dr Haines earlier proposed a network of 200 agricultural extension officers to help farmers, who wanted to play their part in reducing emissions as climate change threatened their livelihood.
Farming communities in her regional Victorian electorate were concerned about the impact of the safeguard mechanism which had too much reliance on the agricultural sector to offset emissions in other sectors, she said.
“Let’s not set our farmers up for failure. Let’s listen to their calls for support to navigate the risks and opportunities in the carbon market,” she told parliament.
Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie largely supported the mechanism but had concerns about the time frame for manufacturing businesses to reduce emissions.
“It will not be able to meet those targets, simply because the machinery they need has not been invented yet, so that is a real sticking point with us,” she told Sky News.
“Other than that, we’re pretty happy with the rest of the bill, so we’re just waiting for the Greens to stop playing their games.”
Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the coalition had dealt itself out of negotiations.
However, opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said more information was needed from the government.
“We want to see the modelling. We want to know what the impact will be on households, what the impact will be on cost of living,” he told Sky News.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott urged parliament to pass the laws as soon as possible to provide policy certainty for businesses to decarbonise.AAP