Your 3-Minute Briefing on the Australian Government’s Climate Change Bill

Your 3-Minute Briefing on the Australian Government’s Climate Change Bill
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The federal government last week introduced legislation that will commit Australia to achieve net zero by 2050. The legislation is known as the Climate Change Bill 2022.

At the top level, the Climate Change Bill will require Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that is 43 per cent below what it was in 2005 – we’ll need to do this by 2030. Then, net zero by 2050.

According to Chris Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy (yep, we have one of them now), legislating this gives the industry a strong signal that the government means action when it comes to climate change. Bowen said it will also help restore Australia’s international reputation.

What’s in Australia’s Climate Change Bill?

The Climate Change Bill has four key elements, the first is the aforementioned requirement to reduce emissions by 43 per cent below 2005 levels and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The second tasks the independent Climate Change Authority to provide advice on Australia’s progress against those targets. The Authority will also be required to advise on new targets under the Paris Agreement, which Bowen said will include a 2035 target. The Bill will reflect Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement, which were committed to by the previous government. These include holding the increase in global temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The next requires the Minister for Climate Change (which is currently Bowen) to report annually to Parliament on progress in meeting these targets. This will include updates on progress made during the year towards achieving the targets, international developments that are relevant to addressing climate change and the effectiveness of the government’s climate change policies in contributing to the achievement of the targets.

The last key element of the Climate Change Bill is that it will embed the nation’s targets in the objectives and functions of a range of key government agencies including ARENA, CEFC, Infrastructure Australia and the NAIF. This means those organisations will be required to adhere to the legislative direction.

Greens add their flavour

The Australian Greens on Wednesday offered its support for the Bill, but secured changes it wanted.

“We wanted to improve & pass the bill. By pushing for important changes, we’ve: ‘Dutton-proofed’ the bill so future govs can’t go backwards, Ensured there’s no ceiling on ambition, Made it harder for gov to fund coal & gas, Taken next steps to support coal & gas communities,” the next tweet from Greens leader Adam Bandt reads.

Bandt continues by saying his party will ramp up its fight to stop Labor opening coal and gas mines, by “using our numbers in the Parliament we will now turn to putting further limits on coal and gas”.

When will the Bill become law?

As Michelle Grattan, a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra, reports, it’s all but assured the Labor government will have its Climate Change Bill passed with the support of the Greens. Worth noting, the opposition formally decided this week to vote against the legislation.

We’ll keep this article updated with the Climate Change Bill’s movements as we learn more. Either way, Bowen reckons the Bill will “end climate and energy chaos” and at the very least, it’s a start.

This article has been updated since it was first published.