House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading

1:21 pm

Photo of Max Chandler-MatherMax Chandler-Mather (Griffith, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

As it stands, the safeguard mechanism, which, by the way, is a reheated Tony Abbott and coalition policy, literally locks in a massive expansion of coal and gas. In fact, not only will it make the climate crisis worse but it will also guarantee that we fail to keep warming anywhere below 1.5 degrees. What would that look like? Not only would there be more bushfires, storms, floods and heatwaves but also collapses of food systems, increases in sea levels and a tideline that will capture in my city of Brisbane entire suburbs, especially if we hit above two degrees of warming.

The material consequences are already being felt. The recent floods and bushfires have devastated communities, taken lives and are the direct result of a warming planet. In 10 to 20 years' time, if this bill is enacted unchanged, we are going to continue to see more bushfires, more storms, more communities devastated by floods—hauling out furniture—and time and again being asked to pay for the consequences of a climate change crisis caused by big multinational corporations that often pay nothing in tax. That's what is at stake when the scientists and experts say we can't open new coal and gas projects. It is not the Greens, it is not some political line; it is the science and the basic facts of the matter.

The International Energy Agency, for instance, has been very clear. If we want a 50 per cent chance of reaching net zero by 2050 and limiting warming below two degrees then the world can't open a single new coal and gas project. Instead, this government has proposed a climate plan that could allow 117 new coal and gas projects. All they have to do is buy cheap offsets that would account for a fraction of their enormous—often tax-free—profits. Just last week, the environment minister approved 116 new Santos coal seam gas wells in Queensland, active until 2077, which makes a complete mockery of the net zero by 2050 target the government often touts. But it gets worse. Just one new giant gas project Labor is hoping will start in 2025, Woodside Scarborough Pluto climate bomb, will wipe out all the emissions reductions of the safeguard mechanism to 2030—just one project! There are still five more projects that the government forecasts to start before 2030, when the world is meant to have halved emissions and, hopefully, limited warming below 1½ degrees.

It's worth underlining this: just one of these gas projects will literally produce more emissions than the safeguard aims to save, and there are five of them. And when it comes to the offsets, there is now significant evidence that 75 per cent of Australian carbon credits are not actually resulting in real emissions reductions. For example, credits being claimed and sold for not clearing land that was never going to be cleared anyway are counted as emissions reductions.

We've heard the Prime Minister boast that the safeguard mechanism has been endorsed by Shell and Woodside as if it's a good thing. Of course they would support it. It allows them to make monster profits on oil and gas without changing a thing and buying a few fake accounting trick offsets in exchange.

What's driving this self-destructive behaviour? If you talk to the experts and scientists, you know that we can't open new coal and gas mines if we want to have any chance of limiting warming to below 1½ degrees. So why do that? We know that, in the most recent election, Labor received more donations from fossil fuel corporations than even the Liberals and Nationals—corporations like Woodside and Santos who benefit to the tune of billions of dollars as a result of decisions made by Labor in this place.


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