The rise in emissions from big corporate polluters like Anglo are swallowing up the pollution cuts the federal government is buying with public money through its Climate Solutions Fund.

Massive loopholes in the Morrison Government’s direct action climate plan have allowed mining giant Anglo American Australia to nearly double climate pollution from a major coal mine without penalty or obtaining carbon credits.

Documents obtained by Freedom of Information and an Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) analysis show on last reporting climate pollution from Anglo’s Moranbah North coal mine in Queensland was 1,023,092 tonnes higher than the initial 2016 baseline set for the site under the Safeguard Mechanism.

Paying for equivalent carbon cuts to cover this rise would have cost the taxpayer $13.7 million through the Morrison Government’s Climate Solutions Fund.

The Safeguard Mechanism sets climate pollution limits for Australia’s largest emitting facilities like power plants, mines and refineries. Under the policy if this baseline is exceeded companies are required to buy carbon credits or pay a penalty. But the Safeguard Mechanism also allows large companies to apply for increases in their baselines under a range of conditions.

When Anglo exceeded the Moranbah North baseline by 55,000 tonnes of climate pollution in 2016-17 it was granted an increase, meaning it avoided penalties. When Anglo exceeded this higher baseline by almost a million tonnes the following year it was granted another baseline increase and allowed to submit multi-year reports. Anglo again avoided penalties.

The climate pollution reported from Moranbah North comes from the mining, not the burning, of coal. This pollution is known as fugitive emissions. The latest Australian greenhouse gas data recorded a 10.8 per cent rise in fugitive emissions from fossil fuel extraction and distribution in the year to December 2018.

“Australians are asking why our climate pollution keeps rising and a key reason is the lack of a hard emissions cap on big companies,” ACF Climate Change Program Manager, Gavan McFadzean, said.

“Shockingly, Anglo has been able to legally double its emissions at Moranbah North without penalty. For years experts have warned the so-called safeguards are full of holes and the pollution increase without penalty at Moranbah North is evidence of this.

“The rise in emissions from big corporate polluters like Anglo are swallowing up the pollution cuts the federal government is buying with public money through its Climate Solutions Fund.

“Our national climate policies are clearly not strong enough to halt our climate pollution.

“Australia’s emissions have risen for five years and government’s own projections show we will fall short of our 2030 Paris Agreement targets, which already do not reflect the ambition scientific evidence says is needed to halt global heating at relatively safe levels.

“As a clear first step loopholes like those Anglo has exploited must be eradicated and the safeguards should be tightened and brought down over time, as recommended by the Climate Change Authority.

“This is a bare minimum first step towards a comprehensive Australian climate change strategy that must bring down our pollution to zero by 2050 from all sectors including heavy industry, transport, energy and the land.”

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