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Senator chastised as Labor’s pivotal climate change bill passed into law

The Albanese government has claimed its first climate policy victory after its signature bill to enshrine in law a 43 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 passed the Senate.

Labor’s bill, which also proposes to legislate a net-zero by 2050 target, will be sent back to the House of Representatives for a final check before it can receive royal assent.

The Senate passed the proposed changes on Thursday on a vote of 37-30 with the support of the Greens and other members of the crossbench – but not without some heated scenes.

“It is well on its way to becoming the law of the land,” Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen told parliament.

The Coalition voted against the bill after it unsuccessfully attempted to extend debate earlier on Thursday. It argued the bill was unnecessary as the targets did not need the force of legislation.

The bill passed after the government agreed to support four amendments from independent ACT senator David Pocock.

They include requiring the government to consider risks presented by climate change in its annual climate change statement and tightening rules about how and when the Climate Change Authority provided advice.

But other proposed changes pushed by the key crossbencher, including a requirement for the government to report on expected greenhouse gas emissions from budget spending and reclassifying native forest wood waste, were not carried.

Senator Pocock, whose support was crucial for the legislation’s passage through the upper house, said states and territories were already on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 42 per cent by 2030.

“If 1 per cent is ambitious, I think Australians are going to be asking questions,” he told the Senate on Thursday, after he was earlier forced to withdraw an unparliamentary remark for describing elements of the climate change debate as “bull—t”.

The Greens agreed to support the bill but argued the government should have instead set a 75 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030.

It criticised the government for considering approving coal and gas mine projects at the same time as trying to legislate emissions reduction targets.

“The flimsy 43 per cent emissions reduction target that this bill will enshrine – it’s not enough,” Greens senator Larissa Waters said.

“This bill does not get us even close to meeting the Paris climate agreement.”

“The climate wars are not over when you are not accepting science and you are still opening coal and gas mines.”

The House of Representatives passed the bill last month on a vote of 89 to 55 with the backing of the Greens, crossbenchers and Liberal MP Bridget Archer after six amendments were carried.

Amendments passed in the lower house included explicitly targeting a Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming under 1.5 degrees, ensuring further targets would rise not fall and be guided by scientific advice, and beefing up public disclosure requirements on how targets were being met.

Mr Bowen told parliament on Wednesday that the bill would signal to other countries that Australia would meet its emissions reductions targets.

“It provides that certainty and that signal to the rest of the world,” he said.

“Forty-three per cent is an economy-wide target to be achieved by the whole country, but we do have policies that achieve that on a sector-by-sector basis.”

The bill’s 2030 target is relative to national emissions as recorded in 2005 and a landmark towards realising Australia’s “net zero” commitment on carbon emissions by 2050.

The government also wants to make electric vehicles cheaper, but it faces a fight with the Greens over concerns about hybrid cars being included in the proposed tax breaks.

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