Labor will allow coal, gas and other companies to buy their way out of cutting emissions, allowing unlimited use of offsets under newly released details of its “Safeguards Mechanism”.
This is designed to allow an enormous fossil fuel expansion, with more than 100 new mining projects in the pipeline.
The scheme is meant to address the 28 per cent of Australia’s emissions that come from industry.
The announcement follows a government-commissioned review that whitewashed Australia’s offsets scheme, ignoring evidence of widespread fraud to claim it was “essentially sound”.
This was despite submissions from the CSIRO and the Wentworth Group of Scientists that argued there were significant problems with the crediting of offsets, including in tree planting and land regeneration. This was backed up by the Australian Academy of Science, in work requested by the review.
Research by Professor Andrew Macintosh, the former head of the government committee that monitors offsets, found that the offsets were “a sham” and were “not delivering genuine reductions in greenhouses gas emissions”.
How the panel reached its conclusions, Macintosh said “is hard to fathom.” It acknowledged the criticisms of the scheme but claimed “it was also provided with evidence to the contrary”. Yet it wouldn’t say what that evidence was or why it preferred it.
The review failed to investigate how many of the offsets issued under the scheme to date are worthless. It also backed Carbon Capture and Storage as an offset solution.
Two of the four members of the review panel have links to companies that profit from carbon offset arrangements. And offsets are too central to Labor’s plans for the Safeguard Mechanism for them to be abandoned.
The fact that Labor’s plan has been welcomed by big polluting companies like Rio Tinto, the Minerals Council and the Business Council speaks volumes. It allows them to continue polluting without any challenge.
The scheme will be an abject failure in delivering any real cuts to emissions.
By James Supple