The main thing safeguarded by the Abbott Government’s proposed ‘safeguard mechanism’ is big polluters’ right to pollute, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

The government today released its draft Emissions Reduction Fund safeguard mechanism.

“The safeguard mechanism has been billed as the means to constrain the increase in pollution from industry, but now it goes out of its way to protect Australia’s biggest polluters,” said ACF’s climate change program manager Victoria McKenzie-McHarg.

The mechanism will supposedly make sure pollution cuts paid for through the ERF are not offset by significant increases in emissions elsewhere in the economy, but it is unclear how this will be achieved when there is, in Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s own words, a “clear expectation that no businesses will pay penalties”.

“The draft safeguard mechanism released today appears to be even weaker than the earlier consultation draft which analysts RepuTex described as a toothless tiger,” Ms McKenzie-McHarg said.

“The proposed threshold for facilities covered by the mechanism is ridiculously high at 100,000 tonnes of pollution per year.

“If the same approach was applied to drink driving laws the blood alcohol level would be set so high that no driver would ever be charged for being over the limit – but there would be carnage on the roads.

“The mechanism sets baselines at a company’s highest level of pollution over a five year period, so there is no incentive for businesses to make their operations more efficient.

“Big polluters would be allowed to re-set their baseline twice in the next ten years.

“If the government was serious about cutting climate pollution from industry, baselines would be set at the lowest level from the past five years. 

“With a monster El Niño intensifying in the Pacific and warnings that Australia must prepare for a bad bushfire season, the government should be doing everything it can to safeguard our future from climate carnage,” she said.

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