Skip navigation

An Update on Climate & the Safeguard Mechanism

From the devastating floods just last year, to the bushfires of 2019-20 it’s clear that climate change is here and Labor’s push to use public money to subsidise coal and gas and their push to open new coals mines is making it worse. In fact, Australia is the third biggest exporter of fossil fuels in the world, just behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. 

The Greens have a comprehensive plan to phase out coal and gas, and reduce emissions by 100% by 2035. We could create a jobs and investment boom in new industries, expanded mineral mining and 100% renewable energy, while ensuring coal workers are supported through the transition and invests in regional communities. 

Recently, the Greens have been negotiating with Labor on their Safeguard mechanism. It’s worth noting that the Labor Party functions as the political arm of the coal and gas industry. Companies like Woodside effectively determine the politics of the Labor Party whether it’s on tax or climate policy. It has been frankly sickening to watch Labor refuse what the science, experts and every major international organisation say is the bare minimum - stop opening new coal and gas.

In that context, however, the changes the Greens have secured have the potential to be very significant, and a clear sign that the power of coal and gas corporations in this country can be challenged. It’s notable that the share price for several large coal and gas corporations has declined off the back of the announcement. It’s not enough, but it’s a start, and why ultimately the Greens decided to support the Safeguard Mechanism. 

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that the fight against the political establishment to take meaningful action on climate is over, nor do I want to convince anyone that the outcomes we have secured are going to, frankly, be enough. But I do want to highlight some significant gains we’ve made.

  • A legislated hard cap on actual emissions that can be ratcheted down. This means actual pollution must decrease, and not be written off with dodgy offsets. 
  • A pollution trigger which will force the government to assess the impact new coal and gas projects have on the climate.
  • The dodgiest class of offsets are now frozen and subject to a review – which could take a quarter of future offsets out of circulation and mean companies have to commit to more actual pollution reduction.
  • New gas fields will have to be net zero from day one, which will significantly increase the financial barriers to opening up new gas.


We went into these negotiations aiming to stop new coal and gas, so we still have a long way to go. But we have put a big blocker in the way of many new projects, meaning a significant drop in emissions and incentivising a faster transition to clean energy. With the Labor government recently approving the Isaac River coal mine development and continuing to support fossil fuels, including $41.1 billion over four years in subsidies in the recent federal budget, this fight is far from over.