Greenpeace Australia Pacific has welcomed reforms to be made to the Safeguard Mechanism, but warned that additional strong, swift action on new fossil fuel projects is essential.

The deal, struck by the Albanese Government with Greens and cross-bench independents to reform the policy, will put a hard, declining cap on emissions in the industrial sector, and places some welcome new restrictions on new coal and gas projects, but falls short of explicitly ruling them out. 

Glenn Walker, Head of Advocacy and Strategy at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the most important task at hand for the Australian Parliament is to rule out new fossil fuel mines in favour of clean, future-proof industries.

“After a decade of inaction, we welcome this progress on emissions reduction from the Australian parliament. It is true that this deal does not go as far as the science requires, but continued policy paralysis was unpalatable and momentum is essential. 

“While the improvements in the deal make the Safeguard Mechanism policy stronger, there will be a need for ongoing changes to close up remaining loopholes. In particular, despite some changes to how carbon offsets will be used, we remain concerned about coal and gas companies simply buying up carbon offsets rather than reducing emissions.

“The world’s leading scientists are crystal clear; we cannot open up new coal, oil and gas mines if we are to have a chance at a safer future. The mining and burning of coal, oil and gas are the number one drivers of climate change. Enough is enough.

“It is time for the old, dangerous and highly polluting coal and gas industries to be replaced by clean, modern alternatives. In doing so, we can build a renewables-driven economy, create new jobs and support a healthier environment.

“We congratulate the Greens and independents for pushing hard to strengthen the policy and Minister Bowen for negotiating a workable outcome.

“Meanwhile, it remains deeply disappointing that the Coalition continues to oppose any real progress on climate. Under Peter Dutton, the Coalition is simply straying further into the doldrums of obstruction and irrelevance. A responsible Opposition would be seeking to push the government to cut emissions with greater urgency rather than attempting to hinder the progress being made.

“The Safeguard Mechanism is clearly an imperfect tool that imperfectly addresses just one part of the problem – industrial emissions created in Australia.

“Our political leaders must understand that Australia’s domestic emissions are dwarfed by the pollution from the coal and gas we ship overseas. Australia is one of the top three global dealers in these toxic fossil fuels. Like drug dealers, it’s disingenuous for big polluters like Woodside to simply claim the serious harm caused by their products is not their problem because their customers want it so badly.

“The next priority climate actions from the Australian Parliament needs to be closing up remaining loopholes in the new Safeguard Mechanism policy, rapidly scaling up clean industries, preventing new coal and gas projects like Woodside’s Burrup Hub expansion, and implementing policies that will electrify our country, including strong fuel efficiency standards.”

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