Promising New Policies in Australia, such as Safeguard Mechanism Amendment Bill, but Will They Be Introduced on Time?


Rating: C (Standing Still)

Australian reporting on greenhouse gas emissions is publicly available on the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water website. However, there are significant delays in providing the data to the public. As a result, the latest emissions data is only available up to December 2022. This data indicates that emissions across 2022 were 463.9 Mt CO2-e, which is 0.4% (2.0 Mt CO2-e) less than in 2021.

Figure 1: Australian Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2005 – 2022. Source Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Quarterly Update: December 2022.

The majority of emissions reductions over this period were achieved through ongoing renewable energy uptake (down 3.5%; 5.5 Mt CO2-e), alongside reduced activity in the manufacturing sector, reduced gas consumption in the residential sector leading to a 1.5% (1.6 Mt CO2-e), and reduction in stationary energy. In contrast, transport emissions increased (up 4.9%; 4.4 Mt CO2-e), as did agricultural emissions (up 2.6%; 2.0 Mt CO2-e). Given these very small changes and the lack of substantial decreases in any sector, Australia’s emission reduction progress to the end of 2022 could be graded as a C (Standing Still). This mirrors Australia’s score in the Climate Action Tracker, which remains at ‘Insufficient’, and ‘Critically insufficient’ regarding Australia’s contribution to climate finance.

Little progress has been made in 2023 to accelerate increased reductions in Australia’s emissions. One policy that may lead to meaningful reductions was the passing by the Australian Parliament of the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2023. This mechanism was first introduced in 2016 as an ‘Emissions Reduction Fund’ (ERF). Still, it was heavily criticized for supporting big polluters financially while ignoring the bulk of emissions from burning coal, oil, and gas. The 2016 ERF also set national pollution ‘limits’ that were much higher than the amount companies were polluting. The new reforms were introduced to ensure measurable emission reductions were achieved while streamlining the reporting process to enhance simplicity and efficiency. The new reforms require 215 of Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emitters to reduce emissions produced by specific facilities by 30% by 2030, starting from 1 July 2023. Each year emitters report their current emissions to the Clean Energy Regulator, information which is then made publicly available. The Australian government is responsible for ensuring that emitters under the safeguard mechanism meet their targets. If a company under the safeguard mechanism does not reach the 30% emissions reduction target by 2030, it will be fined $18 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) over the baseline. The baselines have been designed to decline, predictably and gradually, on a trajectory consistent with achieving Australia’s emission reduction targets of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050. However, while the new reforms promise meaningful reductions, they only cover around 28% of Australia’s emission production and only demand a 30% reduction among those polluters.

In early 2023 the Australian Government also committed to the development of a National Electric Vehicle Strategy. The strategy seeks to increase the supply of electric vehicles (EVs) to Australian car buyers, increase demand for EVs and build the infrastructure and systems required to enable rapid EV uptake. The strategy also includes proposals for a Fuel Efficiency Standard. This is important, as Australia is one of the only developed countries without a fuel efficiency standard, resulting in the emissions intensity of new passenger vehicles being around 45% higher than those in the European Union. Given that transport emissions account for around 19% of Australia’s total emissions, this strategy has the potential to drive substantial emissions reductions in the future, as well as make vehicles cleaner, healthier, and cheaper for Australian drivers. The positive news about these new policies is that they will both lead to emission reductions and generate health and cost-of-living improvements. However, it is unclear when the new Strategy or Fuel Emissions Standards will be introduced. A commitment to the introduction of Fuel Efficiency Standards was first announced in 2015 but is not yet legislated. The proposed legislation date has now been pushed back to 2024 to extend consultation time with businesses, leading to fears that car industry lobbyists such as the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries are seeking watered-down standards while allowing more time for companies to sell highly polluting cars.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Australia Country Manager Robyn Gulliver.



Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.