Australian gov’t says confident emissions target will become law

Bill would enshrine in law election pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below 2005 levels.

Adam Bandt
Australia's Greens party has agreed to support the government's climate bill [File: Mick Tsikas/AAP Image]

The Australian government has said it is confident its greenhouse gas reduction target will be enshrined in law after negotiating amendments with senators from outside the new administration’s ranks.

A bill to enshrine the centre-left Labor Party’s election pledge to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 was the first piece of legislation introduced to the parliament when it sat last week for the first time since the May 21 elections.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Wednesday his government had negotiated sufficient support for the bill to pass the Senate without changing the 43 percent commitment.

“I am very confident that it will be passed through the House of Representatives and through the Senate,” Albanese told reporters.

All 12 senators of the minor Greens party, which wants a 75 percent emissions reduction by the end of the decade, had agreed to support the amended bill, Greens leader Adam Bandt said.

“The Greens have improved a weak climate bill and we will pass it,” Bandt told the National Press Club.

“But the fight to stop Labor’s new coal and gas mines continues and, in this parliament, the only obstacle to stronger climate action is Labor,” Bandt added.

With the Greens’ backing, the bill only needs the support of one of the six remaining unaligned senators to achieve a majority in the 76-seat chamber.

Albanese did not say which senator or senators had promised support or what his government had conceded. But he said senators outside government did not get a “whole lot of things that they want”.

“We made our position very clear. There will be some amendments passed in the House of Representatives that are sensible, that are consistent with our position,” Albanese said.

Labor has a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

Climate change minister Chris Bowen said a legally enforced target would instil confidence in business to invest in clean energy.

“It’s now very clear that our legislation will pass the parliament,” Bowen said.

The conservative coalition that ruled for nine years until the election will not budge from its 2015 Paris commitment to reduce emissions by between 26 percent and 28 percent.

When Labor was last in power between 2007 and 2013, its climate plans were rejected as too ambitious by the conservatives and not ambitious enough by the Greens.

Environmentalists criticised the Greens for rejecting a Labor bill in 2009 that would have made polluters pay for their greenhouse gas emissions through an emissions trading scheme because the Greens wanted deeper reductions.

Labor and the Greens agreed on legislation that imposed a carbon tax on 350 of Australia’s biggest polluters from 2012, but a conservative government removed the tax two years later.

Source: The Associated Press