Australia to slash carbon emissions

Australia’s parliament has passed government legislation enshrining a pledge to cut carbon emissions by 43% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.

The policy was a crucial plank of Labor prime minister Anthony Albanese’s election campaign this year and brings Australia broadly in line with countries such as Canada and Japan. 

The targets still lag behind goals set by the US, UK and EU.

The law also marks a first major step on climate action since the Labor Party won power in May, defeating a conservative government that had preferred the prioritise the interests of the country’s economically important coal and gas industry.

“The passage of the climate change legislation sends a message to the world that Australia is serious about driving down emissions, and serious about reaping the economic opportunities from affordable renewable energy,” climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen said in a statement.

The law sets an emissions reduction target for 2030 that is 50% more aggressive than under the previous government. 

It will also require government bodies such as clean energy and infrastructure financing agencies to take emissions targets into account in their decisions.

After more than a decade of climate policy uncertainty, industry groups said they welcomed the legislation.

“Enshrining a policy in legislation gives businesses and industry greater clarity,” Australian Energy Council CEO Sarah McNamara said in a statement.

While backing the climate bill, the Greens have said they will seek to block any new coal mines and natural gas projects through legislation reforming a “safeguard mechanism”, in which Labor wants to require the biggest industrial polluters to progressively cut their emissions.

The “safeguard mechanism” covers about 215 industrial sites, including coal mines, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and manufacturing plants, which together contributed 28% of emissions in 2021.

That legislation is expected next year, ahead of a target implementation date of 1 July.

However, the government will almost certainly face continued opposition in passing more environmental bills. In the Senate, where Labor does not hold a majority, it needs the support of the Greens and at least one independent to pass bills opposed by the conservatives.