Taylor dismisses call for tougher carbon emission limits on polluters

Angus Taylor (emissions limits)
AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Energy minister Angus Taylor has rejected a call from the lobby group for the country’s biggest companies to set stricter emissions limits on polluters but gave no indication what targets the government may announce ahead of UN climate talks this month.

According to a CNN report, Scott Morrison is working on securing support from the Nationals to back a target of net zero by 2050 and possibly a more ambitious target for 2030 than Australia’s existing pledge to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent from 2005 levels, ahead of the UN climate conference in Glasgow.

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Taylor’s comments were made in response to the Business Council of Australia (BCA)—representing the country’s biggest companies including miners, gas and power producers—which said over the weekend that emissions reductions of up to 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 could be achieved with major benefits for the economy.

Addressing an energy and climate conference, Taylor shot down the BCA’s recommendation that the government strengthen its “Safeguard Mechanism” by requiring businesses that emit more than 25 million tonnes a year to buy carbon offsets, compared with the current threshold of 100 million tonnes a year.

The Safeguard Mechanism and the carbon offset market sets Australia’s carbon price, which last week rocketed to a record high, but was still less than one-third the carbon price in the European Union, which has tougher emission limits.

“A substantial tightening of the Safeguard Mechanism is a backdoor carbon tax consumers will ultimately have to pay for, and that’s not acceptable,” Taylor said.

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Taylor said the government’s main goal was to protect key industries—including gas, coal, heavy manufacturing and agriculture—while also promoting hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and soil carbon to cut emissions.

He said the government would stick to providing incentives to cut emissions rather than punishing polluters.

“That means avoiding explicit carbon taxes or backdoor pathways to a carbon tax—sneaky carbon taxes,” the minister said.