Friday, 2 June, 2023

New deal forces Australia's worst polluters to cap emissions

New deal forces Australia's worst polluters to cap emissions

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SYDNEY: Australia's biggest polluters will be forced to cut carbon emissions after the government struck a breakthrough climate deal Monday, saying it had finally ended "10 years of denial", reports AFP.

Under the deal, the 215 biggest polluting facilities in Australia -- such as coal mines and gas plants -- will have to reduce their net emissions by almost five percent each year until 2030. Fossil fuels and mining form the backbone of the Australian economy, and attempts to cut carbon pollution have been repeatedly derailed over the past decade by bitter political bickering.            The Australian government struck a deal on the so-called Safeguard Mechanism legislation after weeks of tense bargaining with the left-wing Greens party.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia was finally facing up to its obligations after "10 years of denial and delay and inaction".

"We can't afford to continue to engage in conflict in this place in order to try to get the perfect outcome," he said.

Australia has pledged to reduce its emissions by 43 percent before the end of 2030, and the government predicts the new system will take some 200 million tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere.

Barring any last-minute hitch, the agreed legislation is likely to pass parliament's upper house this week and come into force on July 1.

The previously sceptical Greens -- whose support is needed to get it through the Senate despite conservative opposition -- agreed to back the carbon plan after persuading the government to put a hard cap on emissions.

That means companies will have to steadily reduce how much they pollute each year, and can't simply buy their way to compliance by purchasing carbon offsets.

While some conservationists have said these cuts are too weak, Australia's mining industry has warned that the financial burden could lead to massive job losses.

"If we are not careful, some facilities in Australia will close," said the Minerals Council of Australia.

"Not only would that damage our economy and slash tens of thousands of regional jobs and billions in investment, it also would push the emissions reduction burden on to other nations that are less able or less willing to decarbonise."

Global mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP operate a number of mines and smelters that will be forced to make emissions cuts.

Australia's Climate Council has estimated that the 215 facilities are responsible for almost 30 percent of the country's total emissions.

Sydney Environment Institute director David Schlosberg said Australia needed to "push harder, and faster, to eliminate emissions".

He said it was "better than the do-nothing policy Australia has had for over a decade", but should "only be considered a start".

Climate action has been fraught in Australia, which is one of the world's largest coal exporters.

More than a decade of political sparring -- known locally as the "climate wars" -- has paralysed attempts to reduce emissions, earning Australia its reputation as a climate laggard.

But a series of severe natural disasters have helped to convince the country's leaders to take the climate emergency seriously.

Heavy storms in 2022 caused catastrophic floods on Australia's east coast, in which more than 20 people died.

The "Black Summer" bushfires of 2019-2020 burned more than eight million hectares of native vegetation, while marine heatwaves caused mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016, 2017 and 2020.

Albanese's centre-left Labor government was swept to power last year promising to change the pro-fossil fuel stance of the previous decade-old conservative government.