Prime Minister Scott Morrison is adamant Australia will meet its emissions reduction targets with the help of a new $2 billion fund which pays businesses to slash pollution.
Mr Morrison on Monday announced the 10-year Climate Solutions Fund in a major speech outlining the coalition’s action to cut pollution.
But the fund has had a lukewarm reception, with conservationists arguing it’s not enough to be Australia’s central mechanism for tackling climate change.
It will extend the Abbott government’s “direct action” Emissions Reduction Fund, set up in 2014 for a range of carbon abatement programs from vegetation management to energy efficiency and transport.
Mr Morrison says the climate solutions package will ensure Australia meets its 2030 target of lowering emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels.
“That’s no slouch of a commitment or achievement,” he said in Melbourne.
“We will continue to play our part in meeting the global challenge of climate change in the 21st century.”
The existing fund has contracted for 193 million tonnes of abatement, but only 19.5 per cent has been delivered so far.
The remaining cuts are scheduled to be delivered over the next decade.
The new fund will partner with farmers, local governments and businesses to deliver practical climate solutions to reduce emissions by 103 million tonnes by 2030.
But Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler says the opposition will scrap the fund if it wins the election.
The fund is a “failed policy” as emissions have been increasing in recent years and are projected to keep doing so, he added.
“Scott Morrison, the prime minister who brought a lump of coal into parliament, has now fully embraced Tony Abbott’s climate policy – a policy that sees taxpayers footing the bill for big polluters,” Mr Butler said in a statement.
Mr Morrison blasted Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 as “economy wrecking”.
But energy program director at the Australia Institute Richie Merzian says the targets aren’t enough, and the fund should target heavy-polluting areas of the economy.
“What’s needed are serious limits on the major polluters in this country because right now the major polluters are getting away scot-free,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Mr Morrison also flagged that an announcement was imminent on investment in “Snowy 2.0” – the expansion of a major hydro project – and earmarked $56 million to fast-track a second electricity interconnector between Tasmania and Victoria.
Climate policy has been a highly contentious issue within the coalition, with the issue playing a significant role in the campaigns of former Liberals challenging sitting MPs and the tensions which led to Malcolm Turnbull being dumped.