The Commonwealth’s former top energy adviser Kerry Schott is urging the Greens to back Labor’s signature climate policy as Adam Bandt doubles down on his demand that new fossil fuel projects are vetoed in return for his party’s support.
Schott – who chaired the Energy Security Board from 2018 to 2021 and worked on the redesign of the National Electricity Market to prepare for a boom in renewable energy – will deliver a speech at the National Press Club on Tuesday urging the federal parliament, where the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, to back the government’s safeguard mechanism.
“The reason I am standing here doing so is that the safeguard mechanism is a really important policy measure to reduce emissions and as you know its passage through the Senate is proving difficult,” she will say, according to a draft copy of her speech.
Schott now chairs the Carbon Market Institute, which represents companies that generate, buy, and sell carbon credits to companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
The federal government is aiming to legislate changes to the safeguard mechanism that would enable it to impose binding pollution caps on the nation’s 215 biggest polluters and force them to reduce their carbon footprint by about 5 per cent a year until the end of the decade.
This reform is designed to contribute about 30 per cent of the cuts needed to deliver on Australia’s legally binding target to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas footprint by 43 per cent by 2030.
To achieve this goal, the scheme must begin by July 1 and Bowen needs parliament to approve one more element of the scheme – enabling polluters to earn and trade carbon credits – to make it work. But there are only three parliament sitting weeks left.
“If this date is delayed by even a year the emissions reduction targets of the facilities with the heaviest pollution become even more difficult to reach,” Schott will say.
Greens leader Bandt has said while he is open to negotiations with Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen over the final design of the scheme, his bottom line is that the federal government must veto any new coal and gas projects – a demand Bowen has rejected.
“We are prepared to work with the government on this but the question of pollution from coal and gas has to be addressed,” Bandt said in Canberra on Monday.
The Greens’ 12 votes in the Senate will be needed to pass the reform but when asked if he was prepared for his party to vote down the reform, Bandt repeated his opposition to fossil fuel projects.
“We are not asking for the perfect. We are asking for the bare minimum,” he said.
Bandt also criticised the safeguard mechanism’s rules for greenhouse offsets, which allow polluters to cut their carbon footprint either by directly reducing their emissions or by buying an unlimited volume of carbon credits.
“Coal and gas gets to keep chugging away, as long as they buy a few offsets. Now, we have said, there are a variety of ways to tackle that and we will look at a few of them,” he said.
Schott backed the use of offsets with ongoing assessments and said regulations can be developed and tightened over time to verify the volume of carbon sequestration that is claimed and enable them to be used to drive genuine greenhouse gas reductions.
“It is sensible to leave some things to the review, rather than trying to second-guess everything now,” Schott said.
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