Australia remains on par with climate laggards when it comes to using unlimited offsets to meet its emissions reduction target – even after Labor’s attempt to strengthen its signature climate policy, the safeguard mechanism.

As mentioned by Senator David Pocock on national radio this morning, Australia and Kazakhstan are the only countries in the world that will allow big polluters access to 100% unlimited offsets.

This is compared to countries that have zero reliance on offsets to reduce climate pollution in domestic emission trading schemes, like New Zealand, the UK, Germany and the European Union.

“The Albanese government has spent the last nine months working hard to improve our climate credentials and reputation on a global level – and it could very easily unravel,” ACF Climate program manager Gavan McFadzean said. 

“The concept of unlimited offsets is seriously flawed and it needs urgent amendment before the bill is introduced.

“For wealthy coal and gas companies, unlimited offsets are like cheap tickets to keep polluting business as usual.

“We urge the government to revise its design so the scheme can actually become an effective tool to cut emissions from Australia’s major polluters – we can’t offset our way to net zero.

“Offsets should only be used as an absolute last resort, should not be available for coal and gas companies, should only be accessed once a company can prove it is genuinely making efforts to reduce carbon and should phase down as a share of the safeguard mechanism over time. Plus Australia’s carbon offsets industry needs greater scrutiny and regulation.”

New research, released by ACF, reveals every tonne of carbon emitted from the fossil fuel industry stays in the atmosphere for far longer than the life of a land-based offset which in Australia, at best, is guaranteed for only 100 years.

For each tonne of carbon released into the atmosphere, around 40% remains after 100 years, 20 to 25% remains after 1,000 years, and up to 20% after 10,000 years, centuries after a land-sector offset stops absorbing carbon.

Header pic by Martin Taylor

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