Greens founder Bob Brown has handed back his life membership of the Australian Conservation Foundation, accusing the premier environment lobby of undermining the planet’s future by calling on the minor party to back the Albanese government’s signature climate reform.
In a move reminiscent of the highly charged 2009 debate over the carbon pollution reduction scheme the so-called father of the Greens on Wednesday attacked the organisation as a “Labor-backed lobby” that had vilified the party’s “honourable position” of demanding a ban on new coal and gas projects.
Greens leader Adam Bandt has demanded the federal government veto any new coal or gas projects in return for his party’s Senate support for the safeguard mechanism, which will impose pollution limits on the nation’s 215 biggest carbon emitters.
But Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen rounded on the Greens on Tuesday, seizing on a new report by the International Panel on Climate Change to accuse the party of causing Australia’s carbon footprint to blow out by 20 per cent if it blocked the bill.
“The parliament can seize this opportunity or squander this opportunity,” he told parliament on Tuesday, arguing forecast emissions reductions would be significantly lower if his reform was blocked.
“This [UN] report makes it clear we have agency and urgency. Agency because it is not too late to hold the world as close as possible to 1.5 degrees, but urgency because we must move now.”
Following Bowen’s statement the Australian Conversation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said the bill should be approved as soon as possible, even without a guarantee that new fossil fuel projects will be blocked.
“The safeguard mechanism is a start, not an end, to climate policy in Australia – it covers just 28 per cent of Australia’s domestic emissions but the volume of emissions in the coal and gas Australia exports is far, far greater,” O’Shanassy said.
Brown, who led the 1983 blockade of the Franklin River dam, one of Australia’s highest profile environmental protests, was the first leader of the federal Greens and in 2009 led the Greens to veto the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme saying it did not do enough to combat climate change. The Gillard government imposed a price on carbon in 2012, which was repealed by the Abbott government in 2014.
The decision to block the 2009 scheme has since dogged the Greens who have been accused by the Labor Party and some scientists of allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
Brown said the United Nations’ report was a “clear call” to end coal and gas and the foundation was a “Labor-backed lobby”.
“Like the United Nations and global scientific opinion, Adam Bandt’s Greens are calling on the Australian government to allow no new coal mines or gas fracking,” Brown said in comments posted to his website on Wednesday.
“That’s the Greens’ honourable position. I cannot remain part of the undermining of that stand for the future of Australia and the planet.”
The safeguard mechanism is designed to impose, for the first time, binding caps on Australia’s 215 biggest polluters – including mines, factories, smelters and processors – to force them to reduce their carbon footprint by a cumulative 205 million tonnes by the end of the decade.
This would deliver one-third of the cuts needed to achieve Australia’s legally binding climate target to reduce emissions by 43 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
Bandt said Brown was one of his heroes who had helped to deliver the Gillard government’s carbon tax.
“I always listen very carefully to what he says,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bandt raised the prospect of a deal to deliver the federal government’s signature climate policy following Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen’s accusation that failure to legislate the reform will blow Australia’s emissions budget.
“We are prepared to look at proposals in good faith to find a way through this … in this parliament where power is shared everyone is going to need to shift a bit,” Bandt told ABC radio on Wednesday morning.
The Greens leader has said his call to end fossil fuel development was “an offer, not an ultimatum” but has also insisted the minor party’s crucial votes in the Senate are contingent on a federal government commitment to veto any new coal and gas proposals.
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