Australian parliament approves emissions caps on big polluters

(FILES) This picture taken on November 4, 2021 shows smoke and steam rising from industrial units along the port at Newcastle, the world’s largest coal exporting port. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP) 

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia will force coal mines, smelters and oil refineries to cut their emissions by about five percent each year after passing breakthrough climate laws Thursday targeting the nation’s worst polluters.

“It’s the first time greenhouse gas emissions reduction has been written into Australian law,” University of New South Wales sustainability expert Tommy Wiedmann said.

The laws apply to some 215 major industrial facilities — each producing more than 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year — and form the backbone of Australia’s pledge to reach net zero by 2050.

By forcing those facilities to reduce emissions by 4.9 percent each year, the government thinks it can stop 200 million tonnes of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere over the next decade.

“That’s obviously a good thing. We have a climate policy now,” Wiedmann told AFP.

The government said the plan will end the country’s bitter “climate wars” — a decade of political brawling that has repeatedly derailed attempts to tackle climate change.

It struck a deal on the so-called Safeguard Mechanism after weeks of high-stakes bargaining with the left-wing Greens party.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the laws compelled oil and gas corporations to slash their emissions “for the first time ever in law”.

The previously skeptical Greens — whose support was needed to pass the laws — agreed to back the carbon plan after persuading the government to put a hard cap on emissions.

© Agence France-Presse