Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall moves amendments on Safeguard Mechanism

27 March 2023


I move amendments one through five as circulated in my name together. As a guiding principle, the safeguard mechanism must ensure that emissions from the biggest emitters in the country have peaked. My amendments insert that into the objects of the Act. Identifying that aggregate covered emissions from the operations of designated large facilities decline. It is important when we know where we are at in terms of global emissions and Australian emissions that we make clear that it is time for emissions to reduce. We have had warning after warning and recently the latest report from the UN IPCC relating to global temperature estimates and where we are tracking, and we need to make sure those large facilities understand that from here on in their emissions must reduce. There is understanding, there is flexibility in the system, but there is a line in the sand as well to say that it is time to reduce.

For too long, they have been left with this wide, broad discretion to continue with business as usual, despite all the warnings. It is incredibly important. This amendment makes very clear that now, in practice, gross emissions must decline to 2030 for large facilities. Any increases in production must be done more efficiently, so this is not a cap on productivity, but this is a cap on wasteful productivity, or productivity ignoring all of the issues and the warnings around emissions and global warming. This is saying that productivity must be (INTERJECTIONS) done at best practice. It must be done more efficiently. Any new entrants must displace less efficient facilities or come in at net-zero.

Amendment one inserts a new object that aggregate covered emissions, i.e. gross emissions must decline.

Complementing that is amendment five, which prioritises the use of safeguard mechanism credits before the use of Australian carbon credit units. The safeguard mechanism credits are recognised within the safeguard mechanism. These will be real abatements, these are important. If there is a hierarchy and priority around abatement, it must be first on site abatement: real abatements.

Then, to turn towards credits. Safeguard mechanism credits are generated within the safeguard mechanism, representing facilities reducing emissions by more than the mandated emissions reductions set by the government. This is good, we want to incentivise this. Therefore, they represent genuine abatement of emissions from within the safeguard facilities and they should be used first before other offsets through the Australian Carbon credit market. Australian Carbon credit units are generated outside the safeguard facilities and these represent a greater diversity of reductions or sequestration techniques that are less directly attributable to these facilities covered under the mechanism and then make it harder for all facilities to demonstrate a reduction in gross emissions.

We need to also have the discussion around caps on offsets. I believe for existing facilities there should be a cap on the use of Australian carbon credit units to offset emissions. Amendment four limits the use of offsets to a maximum of 90 per cent in the first year of the scheme, and decreasing by 10 per cent per year thereafter. This is consistent with the goal of reducing gross emissions for facilities covered. Forcing investment in improving the carbon efficiency of production and genuine abatement. We need to think about carbon from a circular economy standpoint and manage the impact of carbon currently in the system and keeping the carbon stored deep underground and fossil fuels in place.

My second tranche of amendments is in respect to methane. We must deal with methane. It is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas -- some 26 to 28 times more effective at trapping heat over the life of the methane and over 80 times more dangerous in the first 20 years. To that end, the safeguard mechanism must enact global best practice in understanding our methane emissions, be more transparent at reporting them, and set limits on the amount of methane that can be emitted by facilities. The amendments seek to implement current global best practice on monitoring, reporting and verifying methane emissions. They also establish best practice standards for methane emissions from gas and coal mines, specifically requiring new oil and gas facilities entering the safeguard scheme to meet a methane intensity target of at least 0.2 per cent within two years, and requiring new coal facilities entering the scheme to keep very low. I urge the minister to consider these amendments. Thank you.