Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen has vowed to waste no time in legislating emissions reduction targets, as some opposition members consider supporting the government’s bill.
A bill enshrining a 43 per cent emissions reduction target and net-zero by 2050 was introduced to the lower house on Wednesday, one of the first pieces of legislation of the new Albanese government.
The bill would also require the minister to provide regular updates on how the government is meeting its targets.
Mr Bowen told parliament it was critical to have swift action on the issue.
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“We were elected on taking action on climate change and that is what we’re doing,” he said.
“There has been a decade of denial and delay and we do not have a second to waste and nor are we going to waste one.”
While negotiations are continuing with the Greens to ensure the bill can pass the Senate, Liberal senator Andrew Bragg said he was considering possible support for the bill.
“We will consider, inspect and evaluate this bill like we do with any other,” he said in a statement.
“There may be a range of ways (net-zero) could be achieved, and they should all be explored. What matters most is the outcome, not the embroidery.
“As I have indicated, I have an open mind.”
However, shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said he wouldn’t speculate whether his colleagues would cross the floor on the issue.
He said legislation wasn’t needed for climate targets.
“We have seen the consequences of legislation in other countries, giving platforms to activists to protest against road projects and airport projects, and so on,” he said.
“What’s important here is you set your target, meet and beat it, and that’s exactly what we did in government.”
Negotiations with the Greens on the climate bill remain ongoing, but Mr Bowen said he remained confident the legislation could pass the Senate.
All 12 Greens plus one Senate crossbencher would be needed for the bill to pass the upper house.
Mr Bowen said the bill represented more assertive action on climate change after years of stalling on the issue.
“The political infighting has seen Australia not just pause progress but go backwards to miss the economic opportunities that come from real action on climate change.”
Greens leader Adam Bandt has called on the government to legislate even higher emission targets, along with bringing a halt to new coal and gas projects.
Following negotiations over the bill, all future climate targets submitted to the United Nations would need to be higher than those previously committed to.
Targets would also need to be incorporated into the objectives of government agencies such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott welcomed the legislation, saying the target provided a clear path to emissions reduction.
“The nation can’t afford to go back to the future, we must move forward now to secure a frontier economy powered by affordable, reliable, secure and low emissions energy,” she said.
“To get this done and deliver certainty, we can’t make the same mistakes as the past and let ambiguity and uncertainty undermine progress.”