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WORLD NEWS | Australia makes biggest carbon polluter curb emissions

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CANBERRA (Australia) March 30 (AP) — Australia’s parliament on Thursday enacted landmark new laws that would allow the country’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters to cut emissions or pay carbon credits.

The centre-left Labor government says reform of the so-called safeguard mechanism is crucial for Australia to meet its target of reducing emissions by 43 per cent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

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The reforms, which will come into effect on July 1, set a cap on national emissions and force Australia’s 215 most polluting facilities to reduce emissions by 4.9 per cent a year or meet carbon credit targets.

The law sets Australia’s first carbon price since the previous Labor government introduced a carbon tax in 2012.

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The conservative government repealed the tax in 2014 and has since rejected any climate policy that would make polluters pay.

The bill passed the Senate in a 32-26 vote on Thursday, with Labor senators backed by underage Greens and non-aligned lawmakers.

The Green Party, which represents 11 senators, has started negotiations with Labor to demand that no new coal and gas mining projects be allowed.

But the Greens are satisfied that a deal to severely limit emissions would mean half of Australia’s proposed 116 new coal and gas projects would not go ahead.

The Liberals and Nationalists, who form a conservative coalition government that is elected to step down in 2022 after nearly a decade in power, oppose the legislation.

Opposition climate change and energy spokesman Ted O’Brien said capping emissions would push Australian industrial investment offshore to China and India, while increasing costs for Australians.

Emissions will not exceed Australia’s current annual pollution level of 140 million tonnes (154 million US tonnes), and that cap will be lowered over time.

Large polluters will be able to buy carbon credits to help meet their emissions reduction targets, but polluters who use carbon credits to achieve reductions of more than 30% must explain why they are not doing more to reduce their own emissions.

Without the mechanism, the government argues, Australia could only cut emissions by 35 per cent by the end of the decade.

The government says the reforms will reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 205 million tonnes (226 million tonnes) by 2030, equivalent to taking two-thirds of Australia’s cars off the road at the same time.

The Conservatives created the safeguard when they came to power in 2016.

But the emission limits are so high that 215 major polluters, accounting for almost 30% of Australia’s emissions, were able to increase emissions by 4%.

The previous government set a less ambitious target of cutting Australia’s emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Climate Council, a leading climate communicator, described the reforms as Australia’s first legislation to regulate greenhouse gas pollution in a decade.

The Australian Association of Petroleum Production and Exploration, which represents oil and gas producers, said the reforms would make it harder for gas to be used to wean Australia off more harmful coal and provide credible support for renewable energy. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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