By Lizette Salmon, Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH)
Suppose you offer your teenage son a chance to avoid cleaning his room by reducing his pocket money from $10.00 to $9.99 each week. It’s very likely he’d accept the loss of a cent in order to avoid cleaning his room.
This situation is analogous to the climate safeguard mechanism that was first introduced by the Abbott government and is now being adapted by the Albanese government.
The policy was intended to cap emissions from Australia’s 215 biggest polluters. Unfortunately, it does nothing to reduce emissions; in fact it provides a cheap way for big polluters to claim they’re reducing emissions.
The policy allows big polluters to offset up to 100% of their emissions by buying carbon credits. It will also allow new coal and gas projects to pollute and buy carbon credits. An analysis by the federal Parliamentary Library found it will cost them peanuts – less than 0.1 percent of their significant profits; the equivalent of one cent in every ten dollars. The only other country in the world to allow unlimited access to carbon offsets is Kazakhstan.
Big industrial polluters like Chevron, Woodside and Shell Australia are responsible for 28% of Australia’s emissions and collectively their pollution has increased over the last decade. While households, small businesses and communities are installing rooftop solar at a world-leading pace, the biggest emitters are essentially doing nothing.
The use of offsets is supposed to be a last resort, for dealing with the small share of emissions that cannot be avoided or reduced. Yet paying for offsets is the only thing many big companies are doing about their harmful emissions.
But there’s a chance to turn this around. The safeguard mechanism is Australia’s best opportunity for emissions reductions in this term of government and it’s currently under discussion. Environmental groups across the country are taking a two-pronged approach – lobbying the government to improve the safeguard mechanism, while calling out the appalling behaviour of Australia’s worst polluters. That’s the reason members of local groups including WATCH, ACF Albury-Wodonga, Knitting Nannas for Renewables and Move Beyond Coal took this photo at a Shell petrol station during last week’s national day of action. Members will also meet MP Helen Haines on 16 March.
For more information, including what you can do, see: cana.net.au/dirtydozen