With the help of the Greens party and independents, Australia’s parliament on Thursday passed government legislation enshrining a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 43% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.
After the Labor Party won the election in May and ousted the conservative government, which was derided as a global laggard in the fight against climate change, the law represented a first step toward climate action.
But adopting more environmental legislation will be more difficult for the government.
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen stated in a statement that the approval of the climate change legislation “sends a message to the world that Australia is serious about driving down emissions and serious about enjoying the economic benefits from affordable renewable energy.”
The law establishes an aggressive 2030 emissions reduction target, up 50% from the previous administration’s level. Additionally, it calls on government organisations like renewable energy and infrastructure funding agencies to consider emissions targets when making choices.
Industry organisations said they welcomed the law after more than ten years of climate policy uncertainty.
According to a statement from Sarah McNamara, chief executive of the Australian Energy Council, “enshrining a strategy in legislation gives businesses and industry greater clarity.”
Despite their support for the climate bill, the Greens have said that they will work to stop any new coal mines and natural gas projects by modifying a “safeguard mechanism,” which Labor plans to use to compel the biggest industrial polluters to gradually reduce their emissions.
About 215 industrial sites, including as coal mines, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and manufacturing facilities, which collectively contributed 28% of emissions in 2021, are covered by the “safeguard mechanism.”
To enact legislation opposed by the conservatives in the Senate, where Labor does not hold a majority, it needs the backing of the Greens and at least one independent.