The Morrison Government’s flawed climate change policy allowed Centennial Coal to dramatically increase pollution from its Myuna Colliery for the second year in a row without any penalty, analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has revealed.
ACF’s analysis found Centennial blew its initial baseline for Myuna by 65 per cent in 2017-18 and by 47 per cent in 2018-19, but the company avoided penalty after having its baseline immediately increased by the Clean Energy Regulator.
This meant Centennial avoided having to buy around $6.2 million in carbon offset credits, pay an alternative financial penalty or implement strategies to cut its mining pollution.
“This blowout is a reminder that there’s virtually no cost or penalty for the big polluters that are fuelling climate damage in Australia, such as this summer’s devastating bushfires,” said ACF climate campaigner Suzanne Harter.
“The so-called safeguard mechanism was established as a ‘do nothing’ policy, setting baselines for Australia’s biggest polluters based on historic high points in their emissions.
“This latest analysis shows it’s even worse than that – big polluters are using the safeguard mechanism as a cover for emissions blowouts, allowing them to increase their pollution without penalty under the guise of climate action.
“The safeguard mechanism is not even doing the basic job of protecting public money spent through the Emissions Reduction Fund from blowing out elsewhere in the economy.
“The fact is Australia’s climate policies are not doing nearly enough to tackle the problem and the safeguard mechanism is failing.
“In the first instance the Government should close the loopholes Centennial has exploited and reduce safeguard pollution caps over time, as recommended by the Climate Change Authority.
“Beyond that, Australia needs a climate change strategy that brings down pollution from all sectors of our economy to zero.”
The Safeguard Mechanism sets pollution limits for large facilities like power plants, mines and refineries. Its original intention was to make sure emissions from industry did not undermine abatement achieved through the Emissions Reduction Fund.
The Emissions Reduction Fund is supposed to encourage companies to implement strategies to cut pollution at their coal mines. Coal mines can generate carbon credits by creating energy from combusting fugitive emissions.
The Government has awarded twelve contracts to coal mines using this method since the scheme started—the carbon abatement achieved so far totals approximately 290,000 tonnes.
ACF estimates that Australian taxpayers paid $3.4 million for this abatement. In the last two years alone Myuna colliery has emitted an additional 450,000 tonnes beyond business as usual.