The Albanese government’s carbon Safeguard Mechanism must go further than what is being proposed

Photo by Ainslie Drewitt/ABC; BlueScope Steel is one of the biggest carbon emitters in Australia

Contributed by Joe Montero

The Albanese Government is rapidly pushing through changes to the Safeguard Mechanism, which is part of its response to climate change causing carbon emissions, and the previous government’s utter failure. It could come into effect as early as 1 July this year.  Legislation must get through the parliament first.

Labor’s Mechanism claims to provide a path towards achieving the policy of reducing carbon emissions by 43 percent by the end of this decade. This is certainly a step up from what Scott Morrison’s government had offered. The question is, is this still enough?

Australia is not going to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere alone. This requires a global effort. But achieving this is a political process. IA process that needs nations in the best position to lead by example. If Australia offers such leadership, other nations, especially in our part of the world, would be encouraged. They would be convinced that economically more advanced nations were not using the situation to impose the burden on those less economically advanced.

Decisive action by the Australian government is also the way to win the public’s support. Only through this, can the public’s involvement as participants in cleaning the mess and creating alternatives be achieved. This would be another way of leading by example.

Unfortunately, the present government remains much too wary of upsetting the coal and gas corporations. They and their lobbyists are powerful and donate t election campaigns. When bowing to them, Labor weakens its own policy and allows loopholes. The main one is to continue with carbon offsets, allowing the polluters to buy their way out of reducing their emissions. This is a continuation of the old policy, and the target will not be met if this remains.

When the government continues to hand over billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in generous handouts to the same corporations, it gives them little incentive to change. These handouts must end as well.

Pressure on the Albanese government to sort this out has been mounting. Whether this results in a bolder approach is yet to be seen.  

One thing we can be sure of it that the fortunes of the Albanese government are tied to whether its response is adequate or not.

Should the Safeguard Mechanism be supported? The simple answer if yes with two riders. One is that the loopholes are removed. The other is that this must be taken as only the first step in a far more ambitious response to the climate change threat.  

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