Carry on polluting: Australia's useless safeguards mechanism | RenewEconomy

Carry on polluting: Australia’s useless safeguards mechanism

Australia’s dirtiest coal fired generators will be given carte blanche to keep on emitting, or even increase their emissions under new baselines.


The pointlessness of Australia’s safeguard mechanism – supposedly one of the key elements of the Coalition government’s Direct Action policy – has been highlighted after the release of the first “baselines” for major polluters over the weekend.

The Coalition government quietly released the baselines, the first that will affect some 300 highly polluting facilities across Australia, and it highlights the fact that Australia’s dirtiest coal fired generators will be given carte blanche to keep on emitting, or even increase their emissions.

This graph above shows an example of some of those baselines. In theory, polluting facilities are allowed to emit as much as they have in any year of the past seven, without penalty. Even if they do exceed that level, they will probably not be punished.

The Clean Energy Regulator released the baselines as a spreadsheet, but have been put into graph form (above) by the Greens. They note that some of the dirtiest power stations – Hazelwood, Loy Yang B, Stanwell – have yet to have their baselines allocated. They also note that emissions have risen at many plants since the carbon price was repealed.

Analysts say that the only way that the safeguards mechanism can ever be effective is if they are tightened dramatically, and if real penalties apply if they are exceeded.

That way, the generators are required to invest to reduce their emissions, or buy credits from an emissions trading market, but of course such an idea is anathema to a government with a large cohort of climate deniers in the ranks, and which has run hard on anti-carbon pricing in the last three election campaigns.

The chances of any penalties are remote. Utilities are not even penalised if they fail to meet the renewable energy target. The so-called “penalties” are simply passed on to consumers and the revenue fills government coffers.

Direct Action, as originally conceived, was supposed to allow for a transition to a “baseline and credit” scheme, that would use tight baselines as a platform for trading. This was the foundation of a Labor Party compromise put during the recent election campaign.

Activists and analysts say this could represent a common meeting between the two parties, but so far the Coalition government has shown no interest.

Its promised review of climate policies next year is described as a “stocktake”, not a launching pad for tighter policies that most say is needed to meet even the government’s modest targets of 26-28 per cent reductions by 2030.

In the meantime, coal fired generators will be allowed to continue emitting at their worst levels for the foreseeable future, slowly cooking the planet without penalty while waiting for policy makers to get serious about the issue.


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  1. Unbelievable! What a useless government policy. The graph says it all.

  2. suthnsun 4 years ago

    Basically a criminal mentality in evidence from Mighty Turncoat.

  3. howardpatr 4 years ago

    Seems to suggest that Abbott and his right wing religious followers are the defacto government in so many areas of policy. Mighty Turncoat, otherwise known as Cayman Turnbull, is so ineffectual

    • MaxG 4 years ago

      “Cayman Turnbull, is so ineffectual” … No! Criminal. Without any regard for the people.

  4. JeffJL 4 years ago

    Quietly released over the weekend. They cannot be too proud of them.

  5. Keith 4 years ago

    I’m hopeful that China and the US will ratify the COP21 agreement and a meeting will bring others along so that by the end of September, there just might be a legally binding COP21 agreement (needs 55% of emitters). That would be bringing this action forward from the anticipated 2020 ratification.

    Since Australia is signed up for the goal of 1.5C, this would put the cat among the pigeons.

    Both major parties are not just in denial, they are asleep at the wheel.

  6. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    I was worried the Coalition would try this with their Direct Pollution policy. An embarrassment in the eyes of progressive economies.

  7. MaxG 4 years ago

    All going according to plan! The Looney and Numbnuts Party does exactly what they believe in: there is no climate change, hence, no need to reduce pollution. What for? These people are simply unelectable? Why elect criminals, deniers, eco terrorists, etc. as leader for this country?!

  8. Geoff 4 years ago

    Hmmm. Electricity generation we all use happily. Including SA Giles. Just what is your plan to replace this massive generation capacity? Duplicate the SA debacle?
    Thank God we have stable, plentiful and efficient 24/7/365 electricity generation.
    Personally? La Trobe Valley Brown Coal is one of Australia’s huge energy assets. Pretty much useless except for producing 85% of Victoria’s electricity and feeding SA, TAS, NSW as well. CRIKEY Giles. Don’t you get it?

    • Daniel 4 years ago

      Polarising financial and environmental assets, motivated by short term comfort and security of self.

    • Farmer Dave 4 years ago

      Geoff, there have been several studies (starting with Beyond Zero Emissions’ Stationery Energy Plan) demonstrating how Australia could have 100% renewable electricity. More importantly, we have no choice but to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible if we are to have any chance of having a livable climate. But perhaps you don’t accept the primacy of the laws of physics?

  9. Daniel 4 years ago

    Looking for political leadership to renew the economy.

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