If companies are allowed unlimited offsets and credits, the safeguard mechanism will continue to facilitate an increase in climate-heating emissions from Australia’s biggest polluters, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen today released the federal government’s proposed redesign of the safeguard mechanism – the scheme that is supposed to manage climate pollution from Australia’s big industrial emitters.

“This is the most important climate policy the government will release this term – it must deliver on Australia’s 2030 and 2050 targets and have increased future ambition built in,” said ACF’s Climate Change program manager Gavan McFadzean.

“This redesign significantly improves on the Coalition’s safeguard mechanism in several respects, but we can’t offset our way to net zero.

“Unlimited offsets allow big, publicly listed companies like Woodside, Glencore and Santos – which have done more than enough climate damage already – to pay to keep polluting.

“Unlimited offsets puts net zero by 2050 at risk and that means unlimited extreme climate events for Australia. More flooding, more heatwaves, more bushfires.

“There’s a risk the safeguard mechanism will not be strong enough for Australia to meet its 43% by 2030 target – which was meant to be a floor, not a ceiling – or net zero by 2050.

“Unlimited offsets is a missed opportunity to drive real emissions reductions through changes to our electricity system and using energy more efficiently.

“Companies hoping to get new coal and gas projects approved will breathe a sigh of relief. New entrants to the safeguard mechanism scheme should be tightly regulated from day one.

“ACF urges the government to revise its design so the safeguard mechanism can actually become an effective scheme to cut emissions from Australia’s major polluters.”

ACF analysis released in September 2022 revealed emissions from gas and oil mining in Australia ballooned by 20% in the first five years the safeguard mechanism was operating.

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