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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Guest Post: Labor’s scheme to cut industrial emissions is worryingly flexible


BHP steelworks at Port Kembla Phto: John Englart

Rebecca Pearse, Australian National University

The federal government today proposed new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s polluting industrial sector. The rule changes apply to a measure known as the “safeguard mechanism”, and are supposed to stop Australia’s top 215 emitters, such as new coal, oil and gas projects, from emitting over certain thresholds, or “baselines”.

The safeguard mechanism was established by the Abbott Coalition government in 2016. It’s been widely criticised for lacking teeth – indeed, industrial emissions have actually increased since the mechanism began.

The safeguard mechanism was reviewed last year and Labor had promised a revamp. The fine detail of the changes is crucial, because it will determine how well Australia brings down its emissions on the path to net zero.

So would Labor’s proposed reforms, if implemented, be effective and equitable? Unfortunately, it appears no. They involve only very modest changes to a very flexible regime, and many issues plaguing the safeguard mechanism under the previous government continue.

Ozone action on track, helping avoid 0.5C of global warming by 2100 says UNEP

Ozone recovery is back on track says the latest UNEP assessment report on ozone depletion and recovery.

Rogue emissions from China of ozone-depleting chemicals had threatened to delay recovery by a decade. But the emissions were stopped, says the New York Times.

“That ozone recovery is on track according to the latest quadrennial report is fantastic news. The impact the Montreal Protocol has had on climate change mitigation cannot be overstressed. Over the last 35 years, the Protocol has become a true champion for the environment,” said Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Ozone Secretariat. “The assessments and reviews undertaken by the Scientific Assessment Panel remain a vital component of the work of the Protocol that helps inform policy and decision makers.”

Monday, January 9, 2023

Chubb Review into the integrity of Australian Carbon Offsets sends mixed messages

Chubb review into the integrity of carbon offsets ignores the elephant in the room argues the Climate Council: too many major emitters are buying ACCUs so that they can continue to pollute as usual.

“The Chubb Review has provided some positive recommendations for improving the integrity and transparency of carbon credits. But the most important question is: where and how will carbon credits be used?" says Climate Council Head of Advocacy Dr Jennifer Rayner

“Big polluters shouldn’t be able to keep polluting as usual by offsetting much or all of their emissions under the Safeguard Mechanism."

The Chubb Review found the carbon offsets scheme was "fundamentally" well designed when it was first introduced, but called for more data transparency which would improve integrity, recommending that "the default should be that data be made public, including carbon estimation areas" and the government should consider a national platform to share this information.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2002 Cabinet Documents: Climate change impacts acknowledged by Foreign Minister Downer and Environment Minister Kemp as Australia refuses to sign Kyoto Protocol

Howard Cabinet in 2002

Cabinet documents released by the National Archives from 2002 shine a light on the conservative Liberal-National Party Coalition Government of Prime Minister John Howard in refusing to sign on to the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol, and also the decision not to proceed with a High Speed East Coast Train network linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

The Cabinet documents highlight that Cabinet Ministers Alexander Downer (Foreign Minister) and David Kemp (Environment and Heritage Minister) acknowledged that climate impacts would be felt by Australians, no matter what measures were taken. Rather than planning for the future as suggested by a Treasury Department submission, little action was taken regarding expansion of the fossil fuel sector, or long term inter-capital transport planning.