The Morrison Government’s main climate policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, has again allowed big polluters to increase emissions without penalty.

In late July, BHP, Anglo American and other companies were given approval to increase emissions.

“As it is currently being implemented by the Morrison Government, there is no point in the safeguard mechanism existing,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s climate change program manager, Gavan McFadzean.

“It is worse than a do-nothing policy—it is achieving the exact opposite of what it was designed to achieve.”

The Emission Reduction Fund’s 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 permits or pay a penalty. But the safeguard mechanism also allows large companies to apply for increases in their baselines under a range of conditions.

“With giant companies moving the goalposts as they pollute and the Emissions Reduction Fund paying for hard-earned abatement elsewhere, the taxpayer is effectively picking up the tab while big corporations profit,” Mr McFadzean said.

“Frustratingly, the safeguard mechanism actually has the basic architecture required to drive down industry emissions. The thing missing is political will.

“BHP has an emissions problem. The massive mining company consistently refuses to pick up the tab for its climate pollution if there are ways of getting out of it.

“The climate pollution BHP is putting into the atmosphere is real and is warming our planet. Finding loopholes does not change that. If BHP was serious about climate change it would purchase real abatement.

“The increase in limits at Anglo American’s Capcoal mine is the equivalent of the annual emissions of more than 140,000 family cars. The original emissions of the mine were already on par with the annual emission of Darwin.”

In the last 18 months, ACF investigations have revealed:

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