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No, Mr Morrison – the safeguard mechanism is not a ‘sneaky carbon tax’

No, Mr Morrison – the safeguard mechanism is not a ‘sneaky carbon tax’

steam rises form industrial plant

This week, Scott Morrison, Prime Minister, is in Ottawa Claim Labor was planning a “sneaky carbon tax” should it win power, and Nationals senator Matt Canavan declared the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 was “dead”.

We can expect both these concepts to be thrown around a fair bit during the federal election campaign, so it’s worth getting a few things straight right now.

The safeguard mechanism does not include a carbon-tax

The Coalition’s claims of a “sneaky carbon tax” are a reference to Labor’s plans to tighten an existing policy known as the Protective mechanism.

The safeguard mechanism was introduced by the Abbott Coalition government in 2016 – and it is not a carbon tax.

The mechanism was supposed to “safeguard” gains achieved through the Coalition’s then-named Emissions Reduction Fund, by ensuring the emissions cuts were not offset by increases elsewhere in the economy.

The rule applies to approximately 200 large industrial polluters that emit more than 100,000 tonnes per year of greenhouse gases in industries such as electricity, gas mining, transport, and manufacturing.

steam rises form industrial plant
The safeguard mechanism applies to Australia’s biggest polluters.

The safeguard mechanism requires that polluters keep their emissions below historical levels. This baseline is called a baseline. Polluters who exceed the baseline can either purchase carbon credits to offset excess pollution or apply to Clean Energy Regulator to have the baseline adjusted.

Baseline adjustments could be made because no overall limit was placed on the emissions. The regulator is more flexible to adjust without a cap.

This flexibility has rendered the safeguard mechanism ineffective. Companies that were subject to the safeguard mechanism have actually increased their compliance since its implementation. IncreasedTheir overall emissions are reduced by 7%

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So, Labor has promisedIf it wins, it will tighten its safeguard mechanism. Large emitters will have a harder time adjusting their baselines. This will eventually lead to their baselines being reduced.

This approach is compatible with the original purpose of safeguard mechanism and is supported by the Business Council of Australia, among others.

Analysis suggests Labor’s policy could avoid a substantial 213 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions entering the atmosphere by 2030.

Labor indicated that industries that are highly polluting, such as large gas and coal exporters, won’t be forced to reduce pollution in a way that makes these industries less competitive internationally.

man in hard hat and glasses
Labor will tighten the safeguard mechanism that was introduced by the Abbott government.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Australia’s never had a carbon tax

Let’s be clear. No Australian government has implemented a carbon tax – and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate.

The spectre of a so-called “carbon tax” has haunted Labor ever since the 2010 election campaign, when then Prime Minister Julia Gillard Not allowedImplement one.

Gillard was returned to office after being returned. AnnouncementPlans to legislate carbon prices in the form of an emissions trading program.

Carbon pricing does not always amount to a tax. The Coalition led Abbott attempted to condense the two. IndictedGillard accuses of breaking a key election promise.

The costs of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change are high. Extreme weather like heatwaves and droughts can cause crop damage and increase demand for health care. Property can be damaged by flooding, bushfires or sea level rise.

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Carbon pricing seeks to ensure those responsible for much of these costs – large polluters – either reduce their emissions or help pay for the social and environmental damage they cause.

Labor’s emissions trading scheme required polluters to report and pay for every tonne of carbon dioxide they produced, or face a financial penalty. The scheme was a SuccessCompliance was high, and emissions reduction targets were met met.

However, the policy was short-lived. In July 2014, the Abbott government ended the policy.

homes damaged by fire
Climate change causes ‘external’ costs such as bushfire damage.

Net-zero in 2050 is very real

So what of Senator Canavan’s Claims this week that net-zero emissions targets were “dead” and should be scrapped?

Canavan told the ABC this week:

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“[UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson said he is pausing the net zero commitment, Germany is building coal and gas infrastructure, Italy’s reopening coal-fired power plants. It’s all over. It’s all over bar the shouting here”.

Australia made a commitment to net-zero emissions in late last year. This means reducing greenhouse gas emission as much as possible. Then, for those that cannot be avoided or reduced, removing the equivalent amount from our atmosphere.

It is necessary to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate changes. Australia is also required by the Paris Agreement to meet its target Obligations.

All Australian territories and states have committed to the net Zero goal. VictoriaThe ACT TasmaniaWe have taken it further and made net-zero a legal target.

man in suit talks behind microphones
Senator Canavan wrongly claims net-zero is ‘dead’ .
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Australia may be a long way from reaching net-zero by 2020, especially in the absence a strong and credible carbon price. Canavan is wrong in suggesting that the goal has been abandoned internationally.

Some countries have Already achieved net-zero. The UKGermany has set a legally binding net zero target for 2050. PromisedTo reach there by 2045

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left countries such as Germany worried about their reliance on Russian gas, and this may see a short-term increase in fossil fuel use in Europe.

The net-zero goal is still a major goal for the majority of the world.

Just a few days ago, German finance minister Christian Lindner outlined the importance of the low-carbon transition to the nation’s energy security, Describe renewable energy as “freedom energy”.

So, contrary to Canavan’s suggestion, the world’s shift to clean energy is likely to accelerate in the longer term.

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