Senate debates

Monday, 30 November 2009

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009 [No. 2]

In Committee

7:30 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move amendments (8), (35) and (36) on sheet 5786 together:

(8)    Clause 5, page 16 (after line 19), after the definition of generation unit, insert:

Gold Standard certified has the meaning given by subsection 145A(3).

(35)  Clause 144, page 190 (after line 7), after the first dot point, insert:

  • There are restrictions on the registration of certain emissions units in the Registry.

(36) Page 191 (after line 18), after clause 145, insert;

145A  Restrictions on registration of certain emissions units in the Registry

        (1)    The Authority must ensure that, of the total of all Australian emissions units, Kyoto units and non-Kyoto international emissions units registered in the Registry, no more than 20% cumulatively are:

             (a)    certified emission reductions (including temporary certified emission reductions and long-term certified emission reductions) generated by projects in countries classified as “least developed” by the United Nations; and

             (b)    emission reduction units; and

             (c)    any other type of eligible international emissions unit prescribed for the purpose of this section.

        (2)    The Authority must not register in the Registry any certified emission reductions (including temporary certified emission reductions and long-term certified emission reductions) and emission reduction units which are not Gold Standard certified.

        (3)    For the purposes of this Act, Gold Standard certified means certification by the Gold Standard Foundation in accordance with the Gold Standard methodology for carbon offset project development.

For the benefit of those who are unaware of the specifics, these amendments go to whether or not there should be a restriction on the number of overseas payments that can be bought and used in Australia. The government’s scheme as it stands allows for the unlimited purchase of overseas permits, and we seek to amend this to restrict the purchase of overseas permits to 20 per cent. I will go into it in a bit more detail. The Greens are saying that there are two things that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme has to do: one is to reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere—in other words, reduce emissions—and the other is to transform the Australian economy. The proposition is to transform the economy away from a high-carbon economy to a low-carbon, and then ultimately zero-carbon, economy. From the Greens’ perspective, for this scheme to be a success it has to do both of those things.

On the first proposition of reducing emissions it does not matter where in the world emissions are reduced so long as emissions are reduced, and so that is the proposition, I assume, that the government puts: that if you have a carbon pollution reduction permit worth a certain amount of carbon then it is transferable around the world and you are removing that much carbon from the atmosphere. That is a true proposition if all the carbon pollution reduction permits are actually valid and measurable and truly additional and so on. It is a little bit difficult to know where REDD is going to go and there is really quite a genuine concern that the permits are not all of the same validity, as it currently stands, in being able to be sure that they genuinely represent a reduction in carbon. That is my first point.

That is why the Greens amendments also make it very clear that the overseas permits we would allow for the Australian system should be of a gold standard. The gold standard means certification by the Gold Standard Foundation in accordance with the gold standard methodology for carbon offset project development. That gold standard is the world’s only independent standard for creating high-quality emission reduction projects in the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation and voluntary carbon market. It was designed to ensure that carbon credits are not only real and verifiable but that they make measurable contributions to sustainable development worldwide. The objective of the gold standard is to add a branding label to existing and new carbon credits generated by projects which can then be bought and traded by countries that have a binding legal commitment according to the Kyoto protocol. Our proposition is that the overseas permits that we would allow from the Clean Development Mechanism and JI would meet the gold standard.

The second proposition is in relation to the transformation of Australian industry, and that is one of the compelling reasons why we would want to restrict the number of imported permits. We have also said, however, that the permits that come from overseas ought to be coming from the least developed countries. So the only acceptable permits will be those generated by CDM projects in countries classified as least developed by the UN. In that way we make sure that those overseas permits we do buy come from the least developed countries and that therefore the transfer of income goes to those countries which need it the most. It is a happy coincidence that many of those least developed countries are in our region.

The second reason, in terms of the transformation of the Australian economy, is that we have to ensure that we transform our industries. We cannot just let them buy overseas permits and allow them to continue to do so. They need to transform themselves in the context of a low-carbon or zero-carbon economy, and there is a real risk that that will not occur unless we put a restriction on the amount of permits that can be purchased offshore.

We hope this explains to the chamber exactly what is being proposed here in terms of an amendment: that there is a 20 per cent restriction on permits from overseas; that those permits that are permitted in the 20 per cent are to be gold standard; that they come from the least developed countries; and that the rest of the effort has to be made within Australia.

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