Climate Change Act is Here By James Reed

Well, looks like the Climate Change Act is here, which was certain to pass, even without the reluctant support of the Greens. We know their strategy; get this one in, then press on for the more radical deindustrialisation agenda, such as banning of petrol and diesel cars, no more meat, and all of the other things being canvassed now by the Great Reset, Great Replacement, World Economic Forum. Yet, as depressing as this is, I wonder how all of this restriction and cutbacks in energy and industry will go, once China war gets into full swing? Will there be the luxury of appealing to woke, if what Australia faces, sooner rather than later, is the existential threat of communist China? And if they are ultimately victorious, will they, who are now building coal-fired power stations like there is no tomorrow, give two jots about a so-called climate crisis? No prizes for the answers to these questions.

“Anthony Albanese has declared an end to the “climate wars” is within sight after striking a deal with the Greens and teal independents to push the government’s 43 per cent medium-term emissions reduction target through parliament.

The Prime Minister claimed an early political victory over the Greens with Adam Bandt abandoning threats to block the climate-change bill after winning minimal concessions.

The capitulation of the Greens, who hold the balance of power in the Senate with 12 members and want a 75 per cent emissions reduction cut by 2030, came after an emergency party room meeting where MPs agreed to support the target panned by Mr Bandt as “weak and untenable”.

Independents and the Greens are supporting the bill, which will pass through the House of Representatives on Thursday morning, after the government legislation made clear the target was a “floor and not a ceiling”.

Other amendments in the final bill include greater transparency around reporting on emissions-reduction, stronger protections for regional Australia in the net zero transition and ensuring key government agencies responsible for exports and infrastructure embed the target in their decision-making.

Mr Albanese said the government’s medium-term target and net-zero-by-2050 ambition would end a decade of climate inaction and provide investment certainty for businesses to accelerate clean-energy projects.

“This is an opportunity to end the climate wars, if the Coalition decide to break with their rhetoric and actually come to the table and listen to the business community, who are saying that what we need is investment certainty,” Mr Albanese said.

The targets will become law when the climate-change bill is passed through the Senate, with the support of the Greens and independent senator David Pocock, when parliament returns in September. A Senate inquiry is due to report in late August.

Rio Tinto, Shell, Origin and Woodside welcomed the 43 per cent target, which aligns with their net-zero investments, while the Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry warned against future reversals of the nation’s higher climate ambitions.

While crediting the Greens for not standing in the way of the government’s election mandate, Mr Albanese refuted Mr Bandt’s claims that the left-wing party had won major concessions.

“The crossbenchers, the independents, and others have been prepared to … as Adam Bandt has made clear, not get everything that he wants, not get a whole lot of things that they want,” he said.

“We made it clear that was our position – we could live with the legislation being passed or not being passed. What the legislation being passed does is to lock in, as we said clearly, this is a floor, not a ceiling. So, we lock in progress. And that is important.”

With the Greens demanding a “climate trigger” be added to environmental laws to block coal and gas projects, Mr Albanese said he had given no undertakings to Mr Bandt over reforms to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act but did not rule out further negotiations.

The Greens’ backdown is understood to be linked to concerns about the party being viewed as climate-wreckers in the opening weeks of the 47th parliament and a potential backlash in the three Brisbane seats it stole from the LNP and Labor on May 21.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Mr Bandt warned the government that the Greens could use its numbers in the Senate to oppose a safeguard mechanism which supports coal and gas projects.

“The government will start to say how it will cut pollution, putting some meat on the bones of its centrepiece safeguard mechanism, which may reduce pollution by as little as 1 per cent a year,” Mr Bandt said.

“The Greens in balance of power will be crucial, as the safeguard mechanism can be ­disallowed. The government will have further discussions with the Greens as it designs this mech­anism.”

Mr Bandt said the government’s emissions reduction target would be rejected on the international stage: “Labor thinks it can maintain its position but ultimately it can’t. It is not a tenable position. Everyone knows it.”

The Coalition could team-up with the Greens in the Senate to scuttle Labor’s safeguard mechanism overhaul after companies operating the 215 biggest emitting facilities expressed concern over the speed and trajectory of proposed changes.

To achieve a 43 per cent emissions reduction cut on 2005 levels by 2030, the government’s Powering Australia plan will lower baseline emissions thresholds under the Clean Energy Regulator’s mechanism, applying to companies and facilities with scope-1 emissions above 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said the Greens were wrong to suggest a strengthened safeguard mechanism could be used to prevent new coal and gas developments.

“We said we will take the safeguards mechanism architecture and put it to use, to work to see the facilities on a trajectory to net zero. That is exactly what we will do,” Mr Bowen said. “We’ll be ­releasing a discussion paper on the detailed design mechanism on the safeguard mechanism in ­August, probably. That will be up for consultation. The Greens have indicated they will probably have feedback on that.”

Opposition climate change spokesman Ted O’Brien – who is leading a Coalition task force ­determining more ambitious ­Coalition emissions reduction targets and the potential for nuclear energy – said the legislation “won’t make one iota of difference to this country’s 2030 and 2050 targets”.

“Australia’s 2030 target exposes these bills for what they are – a political stunt. Because there’s nothing in this legislation that will change this government’s target, or the Prime Minister and the cabinet’s prerogative to change it,” Mr O’Brien told parliament.

The Coalition is not expected to rush its climate change policy review ahead of the 2025 election, which will be fought on 2035 emissions reduction targets.

Mr O’Brien said Labor was putting emissions reductions ahead of lowering power bills, ­accusing Mr Albanese of ­walking away from his election promise to cut electricity bills by $275 a year.

“The bills require the minister to make an annual statement on progress towards achieving the emissions reduction target. You must think that at least progress towards Labor’s price target would form part of that annual statement – but no,” Mr O’Brien told parliament.

AiGroup chief executive Innes Willox said achieving the target would “take a lot of investment and business needs certainty that those investments aren’t going to be sunk by the next shift in the political winds”.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott encouraged the Senate to urgently pass the bill to avoid making “the same mistakes as the past and let ambiguity and uncertainty undermine progress”.

ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said “achieving a coherent framework to underpin the transition to a more sustainable future will also meet the demands for affordable and reliable ­energy”.



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Thursday, 11 August 2022