Minister confident of pollution safeguard’s success

Chris Bowen is confident of parliament passing plans to cap emissions for the largest polluters.

Chris Bowen is confident of parliament passing plans to cap emissions for the largest polluters. Photo: AAP

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen remains confident of parliament passing plans to cap emissions for some of the country’s largest polluters, despite crossbenchers raising concerns with the measures.

The safeguard mechanism would lead to the biggest 215 polluters being forced to cap their emissions, with companies that breach the limit required to buy carbon offsets or trade their emissions with other firms.

A Senate inquiry report recommended parliament pass the mechanism, but the Greens have said the scheme would lead to an increase in pollution from coal and gas.

Greens leader Adam Bandt has not said whether the party would back the proposal, because of concerns over its implementation.

But Mr Bowen said negotiations were continuing with the crossbench, and he was confident of the mechanism’s success in being legislated.

“The opportunity for the parliament is to seize or squander this chance to get emissions down by 205 million tonnes,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“This is the only opportunity we have to get emissions down in our largest industrial emitters … if we don’t seize this opportunity, we will not be on track to do the sorts of things that we can do as a country.”

Mr Bandt has challenged the government to come to the negotiating table with a list of concessions in order to ensure the safeguard mechanism’s success.

In their dissenting report to the Senate inquiry, the Greens have urged the government to rule out new coal and gas plants.

“The evidence from this inquiry is clear. Under Labor’s safeguard mechanism, actual pollution from coal and gas goes up and the climate crisis gets worse,” the report said.

“Given the danger that new coal and gas projects pose to a stable climate and a safer society, this bill and legislative instruments should not pass in their current form.”

Mr Bowen has ruled out a total ban on new fossil fuel projects.

“It would be irresponsible to have a blanket ban of the nature of which the Greens have indicated,” he said.

“That’s their view, but it’s an offer, not an ultimatum. (Mr Bandt) is happy to have good faith talks. We’ve had those and we’ll continue to have them.”

The minister said gas and fossil fuels would still have a role to play as part of a transition to a target of 82 per cent of the energy grid being renewable by 2030.

He said the safeguard would be necessary to ensure large polluters could bring down their emissions.

“What we are doing is providing that incentive and that certainty for firms to make the investments in onsite abatement,” Mr Bowen said.


Topics: Chris Bowen
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