Explaining Labor’s Safeguard Mechanism

Nannas Cathy, Marie and Louise with Richard Denniss

On Wednesday evening Nannas met one of their heroes economist Richard Denniss after the forum on federal Labor’s Safeguard Mechanism at the Sydney Town Hall. The forum posed the question: will it safeguard the climate and the future, or the fossil fuel industries?

The speakers were Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute, Natasha Abhayawickrama (previously School Strike 4 Climate organiser) and Adam Bandt, leader of the Australian Greens. There was a good crowd who had lots of questions and comments after the speakers.

Not all questions about the scheme were answered, but the Nannas attending felt they will be better equipped to follow the debates now. Some of the points made were:

Richard Denniss:

  • Good climate policy is simple – stop new coal and gas mining. This scheme does nothing to address the climate threats of the 117 proposed new fossil fuel projects.
  • The Mechanism asks the big polluters to reduce their emissions a bit, but they don’t have to do that – they can buy offsets instead. New players can come into the scheme – they can buy offsets too. Yet major issues with the integrity of offsets have been exposed by people involved in how they operate.
  • Fossil fuel industries receive $10b per annum in government subsidies. We are choosing to invest in them rather than in alternative energies and storage.

Adam Bandt

  • Of the 117 projects in the planning system the ALP is backing in 6 or 7 new gas projects by 2030. Just one of these will wipe out the gains made so far. One of these is Woodside’s massive Scarborough Project in WA.
  • The Safeguard Mechanism does not require genuine cuts to the polluters’ emissions.
  • Corporations’ profits are rising, Woodside’s just tripled to $7b, but they still aren’t paying tax.
  • Agrees with teals – we need a legislated cap on emissions.
  • The scheme won’t see incremental progress towards cutting emissions – it could make the problems worse. We should be listening to the climate scientists, the Pope, the UN – not to the fossil fuel industries. Our scope 3 emissions are huge and they are warming the planet.
  • Keep building climate rallies and protests – it makes a difference to the parliament when there’s action on the streets.
  • Support unions taking action on the climate emergency.

Natasha Abhayawickrama

  • Young people were able to mobilise school students to build the huge climate rallies against the inaction of the Coalition government. We motivated our parents, communities and environmentalists to get out on the streets. We need to build that movement back up. People don’t understand that on climate policy not nearly enough has changed – young people’s futures in particular are still threatened.
  • There is no equivalence between offsets and the greenhouse gas emissions being produced – emissions from fossil fuel mining will keep heating the planet at least for decades, some for thousands of years.
  • The Safeguard Mechanism is flawed as other speakers have explained, but not many people understand that. We need to keep coming out on the streets about the new gas and coal projects, and we need to keep building back the climate movement so we see  numbers like we had coming out for the School Climate Strikes in 2019.
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