Coalition and Greens team up to force Labor to release emissions modelling
Jim Chalmers has accused opponents of Labor’s renewable energy policies of spinning wheels in “ideological cul-de-sacs”, as the Coalition and Greens team up to force the government to release emissions modelling.
On Tuesday the Senate rejected the Albanese government’s public interest immunity claim, meaning it will be forced to release forecasts of how big industrial emitters would use carbon credits to meet obligations created by the proposed safeguard mechanism.
The motion, by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, passed without a vote after the Greens said they had secured opposition support for the ambush.
The government now has until 4pm on Thursday to produce the modelling, a key input into negotiations between the Greens and Labor over the safeguards mechanism bill, which requires big emitters to reduce emissions intensity by 4.9% a year.
The two progressive parties remain deadlocked, with the Greens calling for a ban on new coal and gas projects while Labor insists it has a mandate for the safeguards mechanism without a condition that would reduce supply of gas as a transition fuel.
Chalmers, the treasurer, told the Australian Financial Review business summit on Tuesday that Australia had “immense potential when it comes to the climate and energy transition”.
“Cheap, clean renewable energy, new industries up and along the supply chains of the net zero economy, and new ways to maximise traditional strengths,” he said.
But in order to attract billions of dollars of clean energy capital by 2050, Australia must give “investors and companies clearer guardrails, and the clarity and confidence they need to invest”.
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“It means moving up the value chain – a key focus of the national reconstruction fund.
“Thanks to the work you’ve done with us – on the safeguard mechanism, on climate risk disclosure, on sustainable finance – we’re well placed to make important strides here.”
The treasurer’s reference to two bills that the Greens are yet to commit to pass – the reconstruction fund and the safeguard mechanism – adds pressure to negotiations currently stuck on the question of limits on new coal and gas.
Chalmers warned that “we won’t build the modern economy we need by wasting time spinning our wheels in the cul-de-sacs at either end of the ideological spectrum”.
“We’re here to make a difference – not for a dose of comfortable complacency or for the performance and fakery and puffery of politics.”
In a dissenting report in the Senate inquiry into the safeguards bill, the Greens warned that the safeguard mechanism will fail unless the Albanese government agrees to changes, despite having described the fossil fuel ban as an “offer, not an ultimatum”.
Hanson-Young told ABC TV that evidence to the inquiry suggested “if new coal and gas entrants are allowed into the system that will see pollution overall go up not down”.
“Our door is still open. The government’s door is still open. We are still talking … but [we’re] being very clear that this package needs to reduce pollution not make climate change worse.”
“This is why we are saying the legislation as it is and the draft regulations, if they remain in their current form we cannot support them.”
The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, told Radio National that the safeguards bill allowed parliament “either to seize the opportunity to reduce emissions by 205 million tonnes or to squander it”.
“Of course, when you’re doing a big complicated reform … the Liberals will say this is a disaster, the Greens will say it doesn’t go far enough.”
Bowen argued carbon credits were needed to provide firms “flexibility” with whether they reduce their own emissions or achieve a reduction in “net” terms.
He said no new coal and gas “is, frankly, a slogan, not a policy”, and gas would be required until it was replaced by green hydrogen.