The Grosvenor coal mine in Queensland can now emit six times more climate pollution than owner Anglo American estimated when it was approved and more than twice what was allowed under its previous arrangement with the federal government.
In March the Clean Energy Regulator increased Grosvenor’s safeguard mechanism baseline – the maximum pollution the metallurgical coal mine can emit before it must purchase carbon credits – from 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year to 3.3 million tonnes a year.
In terms of climate pollution, the increase is like putting 400,000 more cars on the roads.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said the Grosvenor example highlighted the weakness of the previous government’s settings for the safeguard mechanism, which was the Morrison government’s only policy lever to reduce emissions from Australia’s largest industrial polluters.
The Albanese government’s Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen is expected to make changes to the safeguard mechanism to make it an effective tool to cut emissions and help meet Labor’s target to reduce Australia’s emissions by 43% by 2030.
“Anglo American has been able to double its emissions allowance without facing any penalties,” said ACF’s climate change campaigner Suzanne Harter.
“Under the Coalition-era settings the safeguard mechanism was absolutely useless as a tool to cut climate pollution.
“ACF has documented numerous examples of companies being able to increase their pollution allowances under the safeguard mechanism with no consequences whatsoever.
“Research on the safeguard mechanism by ACF and Australian National University students this year revealed one in three fossil fuel projects emits more pollution than was estimated by the company when the project was approved.
“Some of the worst offenders emitted 20 times more than estimated.
“It will be important for Minister Bowen to move quickly to give teeth to the safeguard mechanism so Australia can get on top of the emissions problems we’ve got in the mining sector.”
Emissions blowouts rampant in Australia (24 February 2022)
Anglo American $10 million emissions blowout (21 December 2021)
Morrison govt climate policy allows big polluters to increase emissions (13 August 2020)
Centennial Coal emits three years’ worth of pollution from mine in two years, with no penalty (24 February 2020)
BHP allowed to adjust its pollution limits after emissions blowout at mines (17 February 2020)