The Greens are facing a looming deadline to decide whether or not they’ll support Anthony Albanese’s centrepiece climate change policy.
The government wants to pass its Safeguard Mechanism reforms before the end of next week – but needs the support of the Greens in the senate, and two independent senators – to do so.
The reforms would force the country’s 215 biggest emitters to slash their emissions by five per cent each year until 2030, but leaves open the possibility for new fossil fuel projects.
The Greens want assurances from the government that there will be no new coal and gas projects allowed, but say it is an “offer, not an ultimatum”.
Meanwhile, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has warned Australia risked only reducing its 2005 emissions levels by 35 per cent by 2030, instead of 43 if the Greens didn’t support the reforms.
“These are the stakes: 205 million tonnes of emissions at stake in this vote between now and 2030; 205 million tonnes, the equivalent of taking two thirds of the cars off Australia’s roads,” Mr Bowen said.”
Greens leader Adam Bandt has sought to downplay reports the minor party had been given a 48-hour deadline, saying they are not in a rush to pass the reforms as they would rather get it right.
“We’ve said from the beginning that we will look in good faith at any other proposals that are put on the table to help us find a way through,” he said.
“Some have suggested that we have a climate trigger, for example, which means you can’t approve new projects unless climate is taken into account…. We’re prepared to look at all these things.
“This is too important to be rushed… There’s plenty of sitting weeks between now and when the government wants this to come into operation at the start of July – we’re prepared to be here to work to ensure that we get it right.”
There are currently 116 new fossil fuel projects before the government.
Not all of them will be realised, but Resources Minister Madeleine King won’t speculate on what will go ahead, saying instead that all projects will be subject to “rigorous” environmental approval processes, internal processes, and government related processes.
Speculating on a projected emissions figure of the 116 projects, like the Australia Institute did earlier this week, she says is “nonsense”.
“We intend to implement reforms to the safeguard mechanism so that all large emitters will be captured, and new projects will have to meet certain guidelines,” she told ABC Radio.
“I might add that most of these industries, we accept that not every one of them, they all have net zero emissions goals by 2050. In relation to gas, that is their objective as well.
“These are the same companies that will help Australia move to a hydrogen-based economy.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the party was determined to make sure that “whatever passes this parliament is a policy that will reduce pollution, and not make climate change worse”.
“We’ve seen those dire warnings from the UN’s scientists and that significant report yesterday that we are quickly running out of time,” she told ABC News.
“We’ve got to stop sleepwalking into the climate crisis and instead, start sprinting. We need to double all of our efforts … That means not making the problem worse with new coal and gas.”
Business groups are joining the government in puhing the Greens towards supporting the reforms, especially as Labor edges closer to deals with independent senators David Pocock, Jacqui Lambie and Tammy Tyrrell.
Originally published as Greens face tight deadline over Albo’s climate change policy