CANBERRA, AAP – Governments, companies and investors are following the money as net zero emissions by 2050 becomes the global standard, but some risk failure, a summit has been told.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor told the Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit in Sydney on Friday the government’s approach is evolutionary, not revolutionary.
“It’s a practical approach to reducing emissions that is equally relevant in the suburbs of Melbourne as it is in Mackay,” he said.
“While others prefer to talk about mechanisms and targets, these policies don’t support the growth of new industries.”
Michael Salvatico from S&P Global Market Intelligence called for superannuation funds to use the power of Australia’s $3.3 trillion savings pool.
“Use superannuation as your voice to help Australia decarbonise,” he told the fund managers in the room.
Mr Salvatico also said there needed to be a government and business focus on short-term milestones to have any chance of getting to net zero.
“At the moment we’re failing,” he said.
The minister announced tweaks to Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) rules that he said would see agriculture get priority over native vegetation projects on farms.
“Projects covering more than one-third of a farm will no longer be able to go ahead if there is evidence that they will have an adverse impact on agricultural production or the local community,” he said.
Carbon Market Institute head John Connor said the changes will potentially restrict farmers from making decisions about their own land, but many of the money-making projects may still qualify.
The rapidly growing voluntary carbon market is part of Australia’s business-led commitment to cut emissions.
But uncertainty remains the biggest challenge for many, the two-day summit heard.
Labor climate spokesman Chris Bowen said he would legislate emissions cuts if his party wins next year’s election.
“If it’s not in law it can change and future governments can rip it up,” Mr Bowen said.
But if the Coalition or the Greens don’t want to vote for a 43 per cent target, Labor will do it anyway, without new laws, he said.
The climate bill would legislate Labor’s emissions reduction targets of 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050, and require the government of the day to report to parliament on progress every year.
Mr Bowen said the government’s so-called Safeguard Mechanism for Australia’s largest polluters has failed to halt the rise in emissions.
He reiterated that a properly designed mechanism for companies is key to Labor’s plan to reduce emissions more quickly than the Coalition.
Taking a similar stance to the government, he said offsets would be crucial for emissions that are too difficult or expensive to reduce.
The minister also announced spending of $10.4 million on the Climate Active government certification system for carbon neutral companies and a review of offset schemes by the Climate Change Authority.
Former Australian prudential regulator Geoff Summerhayes now works for climate change investment and advisory firm Pollination.
He said the smart money is investing heavily in transition, including in Australia’s mining sector, in the biggest transformation since the industrial revolution.
Carbon tracker Mark Fulton said it was “sheer commerce” as fossil fuel demand is set to drop off a cliff this decade.
“They’re not doing it for fun,” he said.
“Forget greenwashing, these guys have serious business model challenges.”