The Greens have opened the door to backing the Albanese government’s 43 per cent 2030 emissions reduction target if the legislation guarantees the target is a floor and not a ceiling, but did not rule out siding with the Coalition to vote against it if Labor refused to negotiate.
Leader Adam Bandt said the Greens were “up for shifting” on the issue, signalling a preparedness to relax its demand for a much more ambitious 75 per cent emissions cut by 2030, as the party prepares to hold meetings this week to discuss its approach to Labor’s legislation.
But as he signalled the Greens would push for amendments for the target to be set as a minimum to ensure it could not be eroded by future governments, as well as enshrine concrete obligations for the target to be achieved, Bandt kept alive the prospect of voting with the Liberals and Nationals to scupper the bill.
“My hope is it doesn’t come to that,” he told ABC’s Insiders when asked if the party would reject the bill.
“Our preferred approach, our strongly preferred approach is to improve and pass [the legislation] but if the government says it’s our way or the highway, then we’re going to have to respond to that.”
Labor has been adamant that it will not budge on the 2030 target, which it took to the election, with a leaked draft of the climate change bill this week revealing the proposed legislation is largely symbolic and will do little more than enshrine the 43 per cent emissions target and oblige the federal government to make an annual progress report to parliament.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said legislating the target would lock Australia into an inflexible position in the event of worsening economic conditions, as he confirmed the Coalition would oppose the bill, calling it a “political stunt” and “wedge” by Labor.
“If our trading partners or an ally like the United States or others in Europe decided to adjust their emissions, if Europe went into a broader war and there was a severe economic downturn, would the government want to have a legislated 43 per cent? Or would they want to adjust and deal with the reality of the times?” Dutton said on Sky News on Sunday.
The Greens alone could block the legislation in the Senate where Labor needs 12 Greens votes and one more vote to pass the bill. Key independent senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie have already signalled they are considering supporting the 43 per cent target, with Pocock also seeking assurances it will be a “floor, not a ceiling”.
The Greens are concerned the wording of the legislation will fix in law the 43 per cent target, meaning any attempts to raise it in the future will require the parliament to sign off on it, which could be stymied by a future Senate that is more hostile to climate change ambition. But Bandt said this was a “fixable problem”.
“You might imagine a change of [composition of the] Senate that gives Pauline Hanson in the future a veto over a future government. It’s probably not a genuine floor, a future government might actually be able to put in a commitment to the Paris Agreement that’s lower than 43 per cent,” Bandt said.
The Greens have maintained the target is only symbolic if the legislation has no commitments against opening new coal and gas projects. However, Bandt signalled the party would be open to negotiating on this issue separately from the legislation.
“If the government came to us and said: ‘look, there’s a different way that we can approach this question of opening new coal and gas’ we’d be all ears. But at the moment, we’re not even at square one because the government is saying that they want to keep opening new coal and gas projects.”
Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.