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AWU: Government must stand firm in face of Greens’ opposition on gas projects

February 27, 2023

The Federal Government must stand firm on proposed changes to the Safeguard Mechanism and not bow to Greens demands to ban new coal and gas projects or limit their use of offsets.

The Safeguard Mechanism will allow Australia’s 215 heaviest carbon emitters to access a $600 million fund for technology upgrades to stop millions of tonnes of CO2 from being pumped into the atmosphere.

AWU National Secretary Dan Walton says that’s why the Government has a moral duty to stand strong on its proposed legislation.

 

But the Greens look determined to repeat the disastrous all-or-nothing approach that destroyed the Rudd Government’s carbon trading scheme in 2009 and set back Australia’s global warming effort by more than a decade.

“The Greens say they will not vote for the bill in the Senate unless the Government introduces separate legislation that guarantees no new coal or gas projects will go ahead in Australia,” Mr Walton says.

“The Greens will argue that every new gas project makes the climate crisis worse, but they’re wrong.

“Because sometimes the real world is more complex than a slogan on a pair of dangly earrings.”

Mr Walton says natural gas does produce carbon emissions, but at about half the level of coal. And unlike coal, it is extremely easy to switch it on or off to produce electricity.

It’s also a crucial feedstock for of range of critical products.

“Ask anyone who knows anything about manufacturing, and they will tell you gas is 100 per cent necessary right now to keep our factories working,” Mr Walton says.

“If we want a manufacturing industry in Australia, we must provide it with a reliable, affordable supply of gas.

“Only then can we allow it to evolve and embrace the new zero-emissions tech as it becomes available.”

And forcing Australian factories to close wouldn’t do a thing to help cut global emissions.

“New steel mills, aluminium smelters and everything in between will just pop up in other countries, probably in places without the same renewable energy advantages Australia has.

“Thanks to our abundant landmass and weather conditions, Australia should be able to lead the transition to renewables faster than most other nations. But our neighbours are not blessed with such geographic wealth.

“If we want to lower global emissions, we should help them on their journeys to net-zero by selling them Australian gas to help them phase out their use of coal, diesel and oil.”

 

The AWU and the Mining and Energy Union have been working closely in support of the Safeguard Mechanism changes.

The two unions represent heavy manufacturing and the entire energy supply chain and have members at more than 200 of the 215 facilities covered by the mechanism

In a submission to the Government’s Safeguard Mechanism Reforms Position Paper, they say the reforms provide a critical opportunity to reduce emissions from all heavy industrial facilities, including coal and gas projects.

But they express concern that the mechanism’s design requires all facilities to reduce emissions, even if they are already operating at best-practice levels in their industry. This could reduce long-term investments in technology to lower emissions.

And they say the mechanism should not be compromised to achieve unrelated goals that run counter to Australia and the world’s decarbonisation efforts (such as banning coal and gas projects, or limiting their use of offsets).

As a result, they recommend that the Government should ensure all manufacturing facilities automatically qualify for special treatment under the scheme, develop a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, and expand funding for the Safeguard Transformation Scheme of the Powering the Regions Fund.

The Government should also ensure that a robust market for carbon credits is available, and with only domestic credits and offsets used to comply with the Safeguard Mechanism.

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