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Australia:Polluters Must Curb Emissions03/30 06:11


   CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- The Australian Parliament created landmark new 
laws Thursday that will make the nation's biggest greenhouse gas polluters 
reduce their emissions or pay for carbon credits.

   The center-left Labor Party administration said the so-called Safeguard 
Mechanism reforms are essential to Australia reaching its target of reducing 
its emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade and net-zero 
emissions by 2050.

   Set to take effect July 1, the reforms create a ceiling on the nation's 
emissions and force Australia's 215 most polluting facilities to reduce their 
emissions by 4.9% a year or reach the target with carbon credits.

   The laws create Australia's first price on carbon since a former Labor 
government created a carbon tax in 2012. A conservative government repealed 
that tax in 2014 and has since rejected any climate policies that would make 
polluters pay.

   The bills passed the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 32 to 26, with Labor 
senators supported by the minor Greens party and unaligned legislators.

   The Greens, who represent 11 senators, began negotiations with Labor with a 
demand that no new coal and gas extraction projects be allowed. But the Greens 
are satisfied that an agreement to strictly cap emissions would mean that half 
of the 116 new coal and gas projects proposed in Australia would not go ahead.

   The Liberal Party and the Nationals party, which formed the conservative 
coalition government that was voted out of office in 2022 after almost a decade 
in power, opposed the legislation.

   Opposition climate change and energy spokesperson Ted O'Brien said capping 
emissions would drive Australian industrial investment offshore to China and 
India while increasing costs for Australians.

   "This is a tax that will see prices go up in the midst of a cost of living 
crisis where every household across this country is feeling the pain of prices 
going up," O'Brien told Parliament, referring to unusually high inflation and 
interest rates in Australia.

   The government argues that without the mechanism, Australia would only 
reduce its emissions by 35% by the end of the decade.

   Emissions won't be able to exceed Australia's current pollution level of 140 
million metric tons (154 million U.S. tons) a year, and that cap will decrease 
over time. Big polluters would be able to buy carbon credits to help achieve 
their emission reduction targets, but polluters that use carbon credits to 
achieve more than 30% of their abatement would have to explain why they were 
not doing more to reduce their own emissions.

   The reforms would reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 205 million 
metric tons (226 million U.S. tons) by 2030, equivalent to taking two-thirds of 
Australia's cars off the road in the same time, the government said.

   The conservative parties created the Safeguard Mechanism when they were in 
power in 2016. But the emission limits were so high that the 215 major 
polluters, which account for almost 30% of Australia's emissions, were able to 
increase their emissions by 4%.

   Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his party was voted into power at 2022 
elections to take action on climate change.

   "Today's a big step toward repaying that faith," Albanese told Parliament. 
"Passing this legislation has put Australia on a realistic path to net-zero 
emissions by 2050 and a 43% reduction by 2030."

   The previous government had set a less ambitious target of reducing 
Australia's emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

   The Climate Council, a leading climate communicator, described the reforms 
as the first Australian legislation in a decade that would regulate greenhouse 
gas pollution.

   The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, which 
represents oil and gas producers, said the reforms make it harder for gas to be 
used to transition Australia away from more harmful coal and provide reliable 
backup for renewable energy.

   The House of Representatives, where Labor holds a majority of seats, passed 
Senate amendments 89 votes to 50 later Thursday. The House had passed the 
original draft of the laws on Monday.

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