Climate change laws pass first Canberra hurdle

Legislation setting out dates and targets to cut Australia’s carbon emissions have been passed by federal parliament’s lower house, with only one Liberal MP voting in favour.

The laws set a carbon emissions cut target of 43 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050.

The 2030 commitment is a step up from the former coalition government’s unlegislated 26 to 28 per cent target, while there is bipartisan support for the 2050 target.

Liberal MP Bridget Archer was the only opposition member to vote with the government to pass the laws 89 votes to 55.

The Tasmanian MP said her community wanted action on climate change and it was important she use her vote to achieve this.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was pleased the legislation had passed the lower house.

“Even though the crossbenchers didn’t get their demands met that weren’t consistent with the program that we put to the election… the parliament functioned effectively,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Albanese hit out at the coalition for not agreeing to the bills, but implored the opposition to back the legislation when it moves to the upper house.

“They have an opportunity when the legislation gets to the Senate to change their mind and to bring themselves into the 21st century and make themselves relevant to the debate,” he said.

“We need a response which is real.”

Independent MP Zali Steggall said the next step of Australia’s response to climate change had to be phasing out oil, coal and gas.

She and other independents told reporters in Canberra they wanted to see greater co-operation with the government, but praised the approach Labor had taken.

“We’re still seeing in question time old-style politics play out,” Steggall said.

“I don’t think it impresses many of us, and it certainly doesn’t impress the Australian public.”

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen declared the passage of the bill “a good day for Australia”, and thanked the crossbenchers for working collaboratively with the government.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, renewable energy is the key to reducing emissions and seizing the jobs opportunity that is the climate emergency,” he told parliament on Thursday.

Following consultations with the Greens, the government agreed to ensure the emissions target could only go up in the future, with a mechanism in place to increase its ambition.

There will also be greater transparency and strengthened requirements on the Climate Change Authority, the body charged with advising on climate targets and policies.

Multiple amendments proposed by independent MPs were supported by the government, including for regional Australia to be explicitly considered in new laws.

The coalition did not support the amendment moved by independent MP Helen Haines to ensure the authority considers economic, employment and social benefits for rural and regional Australia.

The government also agreed to ensure the bill clearly states its intention is to drive climate action and is linked to science.

But the government and opposition voted against amendments to lift the emissions reduction target to 75 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2035, proposed by the Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

The bill is being assessed by a senate inquiry, which is due to report on August 31, after which it will be debated and is expected to pass with the help of the Greens and one upper house crossbencher.

-with APA

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