Climate change: PM strikes deal with greens on safeguard mechanism

A deal was struck to keep one of Anthony Albanese’s key campaign promises, paving the way for government climate policy to become law.

After weeks of threats to vote against Labour’s plans to shore up the safeguard mechanism, the Greens agreed on Monday to pass the bill in exchange for 13 amendments, including a hard cap on coal and gas emissions.

The deal falls apart short of a secondary party pushing for an end to all new coal and gas projects.

The modernization of the labor protection mechanism aims to ensure that the country’s 215 biggest polluters reduce their emissions annually or buy carbon credits if they do not.

It is a key component of Labour’s plan to cut emissions by 43 percent by 2030.

The Greens say the amendments they have received ensure that at least half of the 116 fossil fuel projects under development will not materialize.

Leader Adam Bandt said the deal was a “big blow” to coal and gas, but wondered why Labor was being so hard on the issue.

“It is clear that Labor wants to keep opening new coal and gas mines. Now there will be a fight for every new project they want to open,” Mr. Bandt said.

“They have the right to stop – if any new project opens from now on, it will be completely on the shoulders of Labour.”

In addition to the hard cap, the Greens provided a pollution trigger that would require the climate change minister to test the impact of a new or expanded project on the hard cap and net carbon budget.

Mr. Bandt also said the amendments “derailed” the Beetaloo and Barossa gas projects after all Tier 1 emissions from Beetaloo are required to be zero.

Mr. Bandt said that this would be a “significant financial barrier” to the project’s future.

All new gas fields for LNG exports must be zero from day one.

Mr. Albanese said that after a “wasted decade” by the Coalition, today was a “great day” for the environment, jobs and manufacturing.

“The Safeguard is the means to achieve our commitment to reduce (emissions) by 43 percent by 2030. This is a precondition for our involvement in the region and the world,” he told reporters.

“We must act on climate change. We can’t afford to get into conflict to try and get the perfect result.”

Mr. Albanese thanked the Greens for their constructive approach as he and Climate Change and Energy Secretary Chris Bowen reaffirmed the role of gas in the transition to a zero economy.

“We have always said that we would be happy to discuss with the panel proposals and amendments that, firstly, were in line with our electoral mandate, and secondly, were in line with our political program,” Mr. Bowen said.

Mr. Bandt and Mr. Bowen sought to allay concerns that a tight cap on gas emissions could lead to further increases in gas prices or the risk of shortages.

“The gas market, as stated in the recent statement on gas opportunities, we recognize,” Mr. Bowen said, citing the risk of gas shortages if production for domestic consumption is not increased.

“That is why we have resisted and rejected calls to ban the new gas. This is the best international practice, it is quite appropriate.”

Originally published as The government struck a deal to keep the campaign promise until the impending deadline