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Australia’s Center-Left Government Heralds New Emissions Reduction Bill

FILE - Vapor rises from Liddell Power Station near Muswellbrook, 170 km (106 miles) north of Sydney, Nov. 2, 2011.
FILE - Vapor rises from Liddell Power Station near Muswellbrook, 170 km (106 miles) north of Sydney, Nov. 2, 2011.

Australia’s center-left government Monday secured the parliamentary support it needs to implement its main climate change policy.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese heralded his government’s new climate change laws.

They will reform the so-called safeguard mechanism, which has been in place since 2016. It has sought to limit emissions from Australia's biggest polluters — more than 200 oil, gas, resources and manufacturing enterprises.

Government reforms will make cuts to emissions more stringent but there will be some leeway for trade-exposed industries, such as liquefied natural gas.

Albanese said on Twitter that “after a wasted decade, today is a great day for action on climate change”.

Analysts have said that the legislation was key to achieving Australia's target to cut carbon emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

To pass Australia’s upper parliamentary chamber the Senate and become law, Albanese’s reforms needed the support of the Greens, a minor party focused on environmental protection.

The Greens will back the legislation but still insist that coal and gas “are the main causes of the climate crisis”.

Greens leader Adam Bandt says his party has inserted an amendment in the new laws that will set stricter limits to force companies to cut pollution as well as buy carbon credits to offset their emissions.

Bandt told reporters in Canberra Monday that more work needs to be done to stop new fossil fuel projects in Australia.

“We have stopped about half of those 116 new projects going ahead because they just will not be able to fit in to the hard pollution cap,” Bandt said. “That is our initial estimate of how much pollution has been prevented as a result of what the Greens have secured. But there is more to do.”

Albanese has said previously that gas would help to “smooth” Australia’s transition to renewable sources of energy.

Coal and gas still generate much of Australia’s electricity and fossil fuels are a huge export industry.

However, campaigners believe Australia can be a green energy superpower. Australia has the world’s highest uptake of solar power. About a third of its homes have rooftop panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

Australia has had some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse pollution.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that a failure to curb emissions would make Australia vulnerable to more extreme droughts, bushfires and floods.