Australia is About to Pass Its First-Ever Climate Change Bill

The government's 43 percent emissions reduction target is set to become law, after the Greens offered critical support.

The Greens will throw their support behind Australia’s first-ever climate change legislation, which should be enough to enshrine an emissions reduction target of 43 percent by 2030 into federal law.

Speaking to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Greens leader Adam Bandt announced that his party would support Labor’s climate bill in both the House of Representatives, and later in the Senate, which could be voted on in the lower house as soon as this week. 

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After a party room meeting this week, and ongoing negotiations with the Labor party, Bandt confirmed the party’s focus would shift from making further changes to the bill as it currently is, to figuring out a way to stop all new coal and gas projects.

“While the government has been unwilling to adopt science-based targets and place a moratorium on new coal and gas, we have been able to secure improvements to the bill,” Bandt told reporters on Wednesday.

“Ensuring that the target can be ratcheted up over time and that it is now Dutton-proofed with a genuine floor which means the target cannot go backwards. Changes have also been made to put in place greater transparency, accountability and strengthen requirements on the Climate Change Authority.”

The federal government’s climate bill has been a fixture of ongoing debate since prime minister Anthony Albanese took office after the May 21 election. But without the support of the Greens, and at least one other senator on the crossbench, the bill could well have fallen flat. 

In the lead up to Bandt’s announcement, the Greens were holding most, if not all of the cards. After several weeks of negotiations, the Greens were pushing to ensure that Labor’s 43 percent emissions reduction target was a floor that could be improved upon, and that a “climate trigger” be included in the bill. 

A climate trigger would in effect see new, high-emitting infrastructure projects and other developments be foiled if they are deemed a threat to the government’s climate change targets. 

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“Government agencies, such as Export Finance Australia, that in the past have funded coal and gas projects, will for the first time be forced to take climate targets into account. That would see them curbed from supporting fossil fuels,” Bandt said in Canberra on Wednesday.

“They join a range of other agencies with new limits, including Infrastructure Australia and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund,” he said.

“That is why I can tell you today that tomorrow I will be joined by our Greens MPs in the House of Representatives in voting for the climate change bill and when the bill comes before the Senate, we will vote for it there as well.”

The announcement leaves little doubt that Australia will see emissions reduction targets written into law this year, and comes just weeks after the government’s latest State of the Environment report revealed that Australia has suffered catastrophic losses of wildlife and habitat to the hands of a warming climate. 

In the run up to May’s federal election, pulling the pin on all new coal and gas projects was a central fixture of the Greens’ federal policy platform. 

After announcing the party’s support for the government’s bill without a proviso for blocking all new coal and gas, Bandt was asked whether it means his party has now missed its best chance to do so. 

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“This is round one. There are three years of this parliament,” Bandt said. 

“Labor might be holding out now, but their position is ultimately untenable, and they can't go to upcoming climate summits, vowing to open new coal and gas projects and expect to be taken seriously,” he said. 

While the Greens will support the bill, the party will continue to push for an amendment to October’s budget that dispenses fossil fuel subsidies, and will continue to oppose the opening of new coal and gas projects in the Beetaloo.

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Read more from VICE Australia.

Tagged:

Australia, climate change, NEW ZEALAND

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