New rules for the federal government’s direct action climate policy will allow major industry to increase their greenhouse emissions, experts say.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday released proposed rules and regulations for the emission reduction fund’s “safeguard mechanism”.
The mechanism, due to start in July 2016, is being put in place to ensure that higher emissions by industry and power generators don’t undo emission reductions bought through the $2.5 billion ERF.
The government wants to finalise the rules in October.
Mr Hunt has also left the way open for businesses to access international units in 2017/18 subject to the result of the Paris climate conference in December.
The government has set a target of cutting Australia’s emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
“Only the coalition is committed to taking serious action to tackle climate change without hurting Australian families and businesses in the process with a painful carbon tax,” Mr Hunt said.
But market analysts Reputex say Australia’s highest emitting companies will in fact increase their emissions by 20 per cent over the next 15 years.
None of the top 20 emitters – including power stations Loy Yang A and B, Hazelwood, Bayswater, Yallourn, and new LNG processing facilities such as Wheatstone, Gorgon, Itchys and Pluto – will be forced to reduce their emissions.
“We project emissions covered by the safeguard scheme will grow by around 20 per cent through to 2030, which will put the new emissions target well out of the picture,” the analysts said in a statement.
Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler said it showed the coalition’s direct action plan was a “cruel hoax on future generations”.
“There is no obligation at all on Australia’s biggest polluters to reduce their pollution – indeed, Mr Abbott provides them with a range of options to increase their pollution,” Mr Butler said.
Climate Institute CEO John Connor said the safeguard mechanism was “more a pollution trampoline than a safety net”.
“It explicitly lets the industry from the last century off the hook and will only frustrate the billions of dollars of new investment needed in clean technology and innovation,” he said.
However Mr Connor said he welcomed the government leaving the door open for international carbon abatement permits.