House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Questions without Notice

Climate Change: Safeguard Mechanism

2:40 pm

Photo of Kylea TinkKylea Tink (North Sydney, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy. This week New South Wales is again being besieged by bushfires while the Northern Territory and Queensland have had serious flooding. Genuine climate action requires us to rapidly reduce gross emissions. The safeguard mechanism in its current form does not guarantee this. Minister, what would you say to the people of North Sydney who are saying this legislation will allow Australia's biggest polluters to buy their way out of responsibility by purchasing unlimited carbon credits?

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for North Sydney for her question and for her engagement   —as late as today—that she has had with me on the safeguard mechanism and reforms. The first thing I say to the honourable member is that the most important thing we can do as a parliament in coming weeks to ensure onsite abatement in the facilities covered is to pass the Safeguard Mechanism Reforms (Crediting) Amendment Bill. The safeguard crediting bill actually provides a huge incentive for facilities covered by the safeguard mechanism to reduce their emissions, because if they reduce their emissions by more than the baseline they get a credit which they can use in future or sell. That means that there is an incentive for them to invest in technology to reduce their own emissions. Honourable members opposite used to believe that. This side of the House still believes that. That's the first thing we can do to encourage onsite abatements.

The second point I'd make, more broadly, is that the safeguards reforms put these facilities on a very important pathway to net zero and provide an ongoing incentive for them to invest in abatement. It is important for them to have flexibility in how they do so because we are requiring a 4.9 per cent reduction each year, and different facilities will have different technologies available to them at different times. The 215 facilities cover a wide range of industries—airlines, aluminium smelters, fossil fuel extraction and many others. I understand the intention behind the honourable member's question, but these are the key points.

The final point I would make is this: last year the government commissioned the Chubb review of Australian carbon credits to ensure their integrity, after questions were raised. Not everyone loves everything in the Chubb review, but it was conducted by the former Chief Scientist of Australia, Professor Chubb, supported by the Hon. Dr Annabelle Bennett AC, SC, Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds and Ariadne Gorring. He has done an exhaustive review and recommended changes that even critics acknowledge will be world's best practice going forward to ensure the integrity of ACCUs. I do not accept that carbon credits are some lesser form of abatement. I do agree we need to focus on onsite abatement, but whether it's Indigenous savanna-burning or other methods, there are real and very important projects supported by Australian carbon credit units, and they will be supported even more by the rigorous safeguard mechanism that I will be putting before the House—and in the regulation and in the Senate. I welcome the support of all honourable members for these important measures, and I remain available to honourable members who wish to discuss improvements in good faith.