The Australian Greens’ attempt to convince the Labor federal government to cease any new coal or gas projects has put the two political parties at odds. Labor is currently negotiating with the Greens to pass the Safeguard Mechanism legislation through the Senate, as the Liberals and Nationals have said they will oppose it, leaving the crossbench and Greens Party senators in control of the legislation. The Safeguard Mechanism Reform bill would allow the federal government to require Australia’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters to remain below a baseline emissions limit set by the government.
On Wednesday, the Greens declared they would vote for the bill if the federal government promised not to permit any new coal or gas projects in Australia. However, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, has firmly stated that the federal government will not be banning new coal and gas projects. Bowen told ABC Radio National Breakfast programme on Thursday that the Safeguard Mechanism reform proposed by Labor was a “big deal” and that it would require 205 million tonnes of emissions to be taken out of the system by 2030, covering 28 percent of emissions. He pointed out that the largest emitters covered by this are not just coal and gas, but also aluminium and steel.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibisek said in parliament on February 14 that it was shocking that the Greens would consider not voting for the reforms, as their voting base would want the changes.
Greens Leader Adam Bandt said on Thursday that the Greens’ no new coal and gas proposal is a formal offer, not an ultimatum, and noted that as Labor does not hold the balance of power in the Senate, he expected the federal government to adjust their positions as the Greens had already compromised on a range of issues. He added that everyone would have to move a bit for this to get through the Senate.
Former Australian Prime Minister and Labor party heavyweight Paul Keating has accused the Greens of being an “enemy of Labor” on climate issues, noting that they had voted against previous Labor attempts to deal with carbon emissions in 2009.