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Australia IMF urges Australia to tighten controls on industrial polluters

15:17  24 september  2021
15:17  24 september  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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The International Monetary Fund has urged Australia to increase its climate action by clamping down on industrial pollution, as moderate Liberals back Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s call for the federal government to sign up to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. The federal government’s safeguard mechanism sets a baseline for Australia ’s 200 biggest industrial polluters such as smelters, mines or manufacturing plants, which combined generate about 25 per cent of the nation’s emissions.

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The International Monetary Fund has urged Australia to increase its climate action by clamping down on industrial pollution, as moderate Liberals back Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's call for the federal government to sign up to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

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IMF Australia mission chief Harald Finger said given Australia was not using a carbon price to drive down greenhouse gases, it should toughen the rules around industrial emissions.

He said many countries had adopted a net zero target and "if Australia were to join [them] we would welcome that".

Carbon pricing was the most effective way to transition to a lower emissions economy, Mr Finger said, warning Australia's so-called safeguard mechanism had "not been very binding".

The federal government's safeguard mechanism sets a baseline for Australia's 200 biggest industrial polluters such as smelters, mines or manufacturing plants, which combined generate about 25 per cent of the nation's emissions. However, companies can apply for exemptions and carbon credit consultant Reputex found in April the safeguard mechanism was failing to drive down emissions.

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The International Monetary Fund ( IMF ) is an international financial institution, headquartered in Washington, D.C., consisting of 190 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation

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"Companies are able to readjust the baselines if plans turn out different than was projected under their baseline," Mr Finger told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. "Making the baselines a bit more binding and rigid would be a good start."

Mr Frydenberg's call for a net zero commitment is being backed by moderate Liberal MPs including Celia Hammond and Fiona Martin, but the Treasurer conceded on Friday there was not a consensus within the Coalition on climate policy.

He said a huge shift in international markets to lower emissions threatened to decrease Australia's access to capital and increase borrowing costs.

Ms Hammond, a West Australian MP, said a net zero deadline of 2050 "makes economic and environmental sense" while Dr Martin said small and medium-sized businesses in her western Sydney electorate of Reid wanted "ambitious" climate action that would enable them to capitalise on new opportunities.

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Mr Frydenberg said on Friday "good progress" had been made in discussions within the Coalition over setting a net zero deadline.

But Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, whose party is weighing up whether to support a net zero target, said it would not endorse a new climate policy without knowing how the contribution of traditional regional industries such as coal would be replaced.

Labor's climate change and energy spokesman, Chris Bowen, slammed Mr Frydenberg's comments as a "pathetic" attempt to reposition himself in line with the Prime Minister's expected commitment to net zero ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Mr Bowen said the Treasurer had voted against climate action in Parliament and attacked renewable energy targets.

"It was just a last-minute attempt to try and position himself in internal Liberal Party politics as being some sort of modern forward-looking Liberal," he said. "If Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg really think that net zero is such a good idea, why don't they get on with it? Enough speeches, enough sound grabs, positioning - change the policy of the country."

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Meanwhile, state and federal energy ministers agreed on Friday to continue working on reforms to the National Energy Market to keep pace with the rise of renewable energy.

Central to their agenda is a controversial scheme, being driven by federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor, to create a "capacity mechanism" to spur investment into dispatchable energy generation that can quickly ramp up to supply power when the wind isn't blowing and sun isn't shining.

Mr Taylor insists the mechanism would be technology-neutral, with equal opportunity for gas, pumped hydro and batteries. But it has drawn criticism from environmental advocates who dubbed it "CoalKeeper" because it may see coal plants paid to remain in the grid longer to guarantee future supply.

Unanimous support is required for the reform and the states agreed to co-operate to finalise the scheme's design, which could take 18 months to complete.

The ministers also agreed on a broader package of reforms, recommended by the Commonwealth's adviser, the Energy Security Board, which will be presented to national cabinet in October.

The reforms will be designed to enable states to finance strategic energy reserves for the grid, create new rules to integrate the rise in rooftop solar and other consumer-generated energy into the electricity market, and create a national framework to guide the expansion of the transmission links required to connect new renewable energy zones into the network.

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