Leading environment group says Labor must include ratchet mechanism in climate change bill


A key environment group has endorsed calls from the Greens and crossbenchers for the Albanese government to add a ratchet mechanism to boost the 43% target over time as negotiations over Labor's climate bill move into the endgame.


The public intervention by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) comes as the Greens on Wednesday formally resolved to negotiate with Labor over its climate bill, but dug in behind the ratchet mechanism as one of their key demands.

Anthony Albanese has confirmed the climate bill, which enshrines emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2050, will be introduced when the 47th parliament opens next week, although there is speculation among stakeholders the legislation may go to a Senate committee rather than be voted on in the opening fortnight.

As well as climate, the government will introduce a legislative package overhauling the aged care sector, imposing a requirement for nurses to be in residential aged care facilities as well as changing administration and management fees for home care.

Separate legislation will be introduced to enshrine domestic violence leave and another bill will create the new statutory authority, Jobs and Skills Australia.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said after a party room meeting on Wednesday that it was his "preference" to pass Labor's climate bill, but that the government must be prepared to negotiate on a range of fronts.

The ACF has encouraged the Greens to pass Labor's climate bill as a downpayment on ending Australia's decade-long climate wars.

But the ACF says the government needs to add a ratchet mechanism to the draft legislation it has circulated to the Greens and the crossbench.

"The legislation needs to include a review and ratchet mechanism for the emissions reduction target so Australia's climate ambition increases in line with the most up-to-date science," the ACF's chief executive , Kelly O'Shanassy, told Guardian Australia.

"The bill needs to be clear that when Australia ratchets up our target as part of our obligations under the Paris agreement, it automatically updates our target in this legislation and becomes law," she said.

O'Shanassy said another issue would be ensuring the Climate Change Authority was properly resourced to review progress under the targets - which is one element of Labor's policy. As well as resourcing, there would need to be personnel change to ensure the advisory body was "stacked with climate scientists, not fossil fuel representatives".

Guardian Australia understands the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, wants to get the legislation passed in the first parliamentary fortnight rather than see a vote delayed by a Senate committee process.

Bowen has briefed the Greens and the crossbench, and has not ruled out adding a ratchet mechanism to the legislation. The minister has signalled the government will consider amendments as long as they broadly align with Labor's electoral mandate.

Labor has the numbers to pass the legislation in the House of Representatives. But the Greens could sink the bill in the Senate because Peter Dutton has signalled the Liberal party will oppose Labor's legislation.

While Labor does not need crossbench votes in the lower house, independents have also outlined a list of measures they want included as part of a beefed-up climate change bill, including a "Dutton insurance" policy that would make it more difficult for future governments to shy away from climate action.

There is significant crossover between the wishlist of the Greens and the independents. Crossbench demands include language in the bill specifying that the 43% target is a floor not a ceiling, including a ratchet mechanism to boost emissions reduction targets in the future, and the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee that would oversee appointments to the Climate Change Authority.

O'Shanassy said all sides needed to give ground to ensure the new parliament passed "a climate bill enshrined in law so that Australia can never go backwards, only forward when it comes to slashing emissions".

In a statement ahead of the opening of the new parliament next Tuesday, the prime minister said his objective for the opening week was "to bring Australians together to create a better future".

"Cleaning up 10 years of mess and mistakes will take more than 10 weeks, but these are important first steps towards fixing aged care, protecting vulnerable Australians, addressing the challenges in our economy and working with our friends and allies to confront the challenges and opportunities from our changing climate," Albanese said.




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