Pull your weight: Australia’s biggest polluters on notice

21.09.22 By
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It’s time to end the free ride for Australia’s biggest polluters, with the Climate Council issuing a direct challenge to the country’s worst offenders to clean up their acts.

As the Labor Government draws up plans for reforming a regulation that’s supposed to be reducing pollution (known as the Safeguard Mechanism) the Climate Council has personally written to the CEOs of Australia’s 10 biggest industrial polluters – including Rio Tinto, Chevron, Woodside and Santos – asking for real cuts to their emissions every single year to 2030. 

In Australia, just 10 companies account for more than half of all the harmful emissions produced under the Safeguard Mechanism, according to new analysis from the Australian Conservation Foundation. Together, these companies have pumped out over 362 million tonnes of harmful pollution since the scheme started in 2016 – equivalent to the CO2 produced by more than 16 million Australians in a single year.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie says the Safeguard Mechanism is the most important climate policy you’ve probably never heard of, and it’s time to call it what it really is: a Pollution Speed Limit on Australia’s biggest emitters. 

“The way the laws are currently set-up allows our biggest polluters to keep polluting as much as they like. If they happen to go over the very generous thresholds that are set, then they can buy some cheap offsets and carry on polluting. This has to change.

Every one of these major corporate polluters publicly claims to be committed to reaching net zero. Those pledges to their shareholders, the financial markets and the Australian public mean nothing unless they are backed up with real cuts to emissions. 

“We directly challenge the CEOs of these companies to publicly commit their firms to make real cuts to emissions each year to 2030 – not greenwashing with cuts only recorded on paper using dodgy offsets. 

“We have a narrow window this decade to avoid the worst climate impacts. The only way to do this is to cut emissions, so the time for pollution-as-usual is over. 

“Australian households, small businesses and other parts of our local economy are stepping up to get us towards net zero. It’s time for big polluters to start pulling their weight in this national transformation.”

To ensure the Safeguard Mechanism becomes a genuine lever for driving down Australia’s emissions, the upcoming redesign of this regulation must achieve three things:

  1. Australia’s biggest corporate polluters make absolute cuts to their emissions. This cannot be just another case of clever accounting that lets companies keep polluting as usual by hiding behind offsets.
  2. Australia’s biggest corporate polluters must pull their weight in reducing national emissions. Facilities within the scheme should reduce their emissions in line with the effort needed to reach Australia’s national emissions target.  
  3. Australia’s biggest corporate polluters must start cutting emissions from day one. From 2023, when the new Safeguard Mechanism is in place, polluters should be subject to tough limits on how much they can emit. These limits should be lowered year on year to ensure Australia can reach or exceed its 2030 emissions reduction target. 

Read the Climate Council’s full submission to the Australian Government on reforming the Safeguard Mechanism here.

For interviews please contact Brianna Hudson on 0455 238 875 or Jane Gardner on 0438 130 905.

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading community-funded climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.

For further information, go to: climatecouncil.org.au

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