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Safeguard not enough to meet climate goal

Emission-lowering measures for some of the country’s largest polluters are nowhere near enough for climate targets to be met, environmental advocates have warned.

In its submission to the federal government’s review of the safeguard mechanism, Greenpeace Australia Pacific said the scheme allowed a “free pass” for large companies to keep pumping out greenhouse gas emissions.

The safeguard mechanism applies to more than 200 facilities that each produce more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, and is designed to set a cap on how much pollution can be produced.

Facilities covered by the safeguard mechanism made up 28 per cent of the country’s total emissions in 2020/21.

However, Greenpeace senior campaigner Glenn Walker said the mechanism as it stood asked some of the country’s big polluters to do very little to address reducing emissions.

“The federal review of the safeguard mechanism must draw a line in the sand under the damage these companies are wreaking and ensure that, as a start, corporate domestic emissions are strongly regulated,” he said.

“The federal government’s policy reform suggests just a 13 per cent reduction of climate pollution by the industrial sector to 2030 on 2005 levels, nowhere near the economy-wide 43 per cent target.”

Submissions for the government’s review of the mechanism are set to close on Tuesday, with the final reforms expected to come into effect from July 1 next year.

The government recently legislated emissions reduction targets of 43 per cent by 2030, with plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Walker said increasing the safeguard mechanism’s function was a good starting point but more needed to be done to ensure the emissions targets are met.

“It ultimately counts for little if Australia keeps approving new coal and gas projects,” he said.

“The vast climate pollution from fossil fuel companies undermines Australia’s efforts to ensure a safer climate, and it’s time that these companies started doing their fair share of emissions reduction.”

The organisation’s submission called for setting uniform year-on-year emissions reduction targets for all facilities where the safeguard mechanism is in place.

Baselines should also be set as global industry best practice, which Greenpeace said was to ensure low-emissions technology could be adopted quickly.

The organisation has also called for international offsets to be disallowed.

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