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A floor, not a ceiling? The flaw is our lack of ceilings.

Today’s IPCC Synthesis Report confirmed that climate change is pushing us to the brink of irreversible catastrophe, but also noted that if policy effort was consistently applied in every sector of every country, we could see a halving of global emissions.

We can’t make real progress on Australia’s emissions reductions with the version of the Safeguard Mechanism currently before the House. Urgent climate action will require big polluters to decrease their emissions.

It is extraordinary that this government has set no limits - no ceilings - on carbon emissions or offsets under Safeguard Mechanism 2.0.  More than 100 new coal and gas projects are in the development pipeline in Australia, with projected emissions equivalent to 200 coal-fired power stations. Many are export projects with no viable role in a clean future economy.

For our Safeguard Mechanism to decrease emissions:  

  • We should set absolute limits on emissions and on allowable offsets.
  • Facilities should demonstrate real reduction of emissions before they can purchase offsets.
  • We need a hierarchy of offsets: true abatement first, followed by abatement elsewhere in the sector via safeguard mechanism credits, with Australian carbon credit units to be used only in limited numbers, for a limited period, as a last resort.
  • Government funding to covered facilities should only be used to support genuine process and/or technology changes.
  • New fossil fuel facilities must be net zero upon inclusion in the scheme.
  • Independent third parties should have standing to help enforce the terms of the Safeguard Mechanism, and prevent and monitor contraventions.

Our Government has repeatedly told us that its emissions targets are a floor, not a ceiling. The flaw in this Safeguard Mechanism is its lack of ceilings - ceilings on the emissions released by facilities under the mechanism, ceilings on the amount of offsets, ceilings on the damage done to our climate. I’ll continue to work with the Government and crossbench to improve this legislation- - to close its loopholes and increase its effect. Getting the Safeguard Mechanism right will deliver enormous benefits: continued prosperity in a zero emissions economy; new job and industry creation through innovation; and a liveable environment for Australians in the decades to come.


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