Greens back safeguard mechanism: Bandt announces deal with Bowen

The Greens have agreed to deliver their crucial support for the signature climate policy of the Albanese government, agreeing to back Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen’s reforms to the safeguard mechanism that caps the emissions of the nation’s 215 biggest carbon emitters.

After weeks of negotiations, Bandt announced he had struck a deal with the government to pass the legislation – but with a new amendment that sets tougher limits that the Greens say will require corporations to reduce pollution as well as buying carbon credits to offset their emissions.

Greens leader Adam Bandt.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Coal and gas pollution was set to soar under Labor’s safeguard,” Bandt said, announcing the deal. “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.”

“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.“

Bandt declared that he had won a concession from Bowen to impose a total cap on the overall emissions permitted under the scheme until 2030, which would restrict development of fossil fuel projects.

The Greens leader said his deal with Bowen would “derail the business case” of the controversial Beetaloo Basin gas field in the Northern Territory.

The minor party’s support for the reform was needed this week to legislate the reforms in the Senate after the opposition ruled out supporting the bill. The safeguard mechanism is due to kick in on July 1.

The safeguard mechanism is designed to impose, for the first time, binding caps on Australia’s 215 biggest polluters – including mines, factories, smelters and processors – to force them to reduce their carbon footprint by a cumulative 205 million tonnes by the end of the decade.

The government’s legally binding climate target will cut emissions 43 per cent by 2030.

Scientists have calculated that the government’s climate target is consistent with action that would generate about 2 degrees of warming.

The Greens had argued Australia must do more to align with international action needed to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5 degrees. The government’s refusal to rule out approving new fossil fuel projects could add to the climate crisis, Bandt said.

In a statement, the Greens said they had negotiated significant changes to the Safeguard Mechanism legislation, “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.“

Two former Greens leaders, Bob Brown and Christine Milne, have pushed hard for Bandt to hold the line against new coal and gas, even if it meant rejecting the bill, but others warned against a repeat of the 2009 clash that destroyed a Labor attempt to put a price on carbon.

Bowen last week said Australia’s emissions budget would blow out by 20 per cent if the safeguard mechanism was not reformed.

“Our projections tell us unless the parliament passes the safeguard reforms, our projections will be 35 per cent, not 43 per cent.”

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