Business Group Says Climate Trigger May Complicate Renewable Projects Approval

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Senator Hanson-Young said that the Greens will push through with the climate trigger bill to end the era of dirty coal and gas.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) said that the plan of the Albanese government to possibly include “climate trigger” in its Nature Positive reform may lead to more difficult approval processes for renewable energy projects in Australia.

This comes amid the Australian Greens saying the prime minister’s rejection of media reports that he had given an ironclad commitment to not allow climate trigger to stop more coal and gas in environmental laws.

Introduced by Senator Hanson Young last September 2022, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Act seeks to introduce requirements for approvals of activities that lead to significant emissions. The bill introduces two thresholds: significant impact on emissions and prohibited impact on emissions.

For the former, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is empowered to possibly reject a project that emits 25,000 to 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide if it is inconsistent with the national carbon budget.

Meanwhile, the latter forces the prime minister to fully reject projects exceeding 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions as if they were nuclear projects.

In a recent media release, Senator Hanson-Young said that the Greens will push through with the climate trigger bill to end the era of dirty coal and gas.

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“We welcome the PM’s rejection of reports that he gave big corporations a guarantee a climate trigger won’t be in new environment laws,” she said.

However, the BCA said that the proposed climate trigger bill will be detrimental in the approval of renewable energy projects in the long-run as more projects will remain under assessment.

“A climate trigger will simply swell the number of projects captured by the EPBC system, subjecting more and more projects to more bureaucracy, shifting the system’s focus and resources away from protecting habitat, threatened species, and the natural environment,” said Brian Black, BCA chief executive.

The BCA also claimed that data from the EPBC (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) shows that there are 109 renewable projects referrals, which are starting to clog up. This is compared to 72 mining projects pending review by the EPBC.

While the private sector is keen to advocate for net-zero and more renewables in the country, BCA warned that a climate trigger will mean more projects will be pushed out due to their estimated carbon emission rates. “This change could open up Pandora’s box and risk investment needed for the net zero transition and the Government’s Future Made in Australia policy,” said Mr. Black.

Last year, the Albanese government said that its Nature Positive plan will not include a climate trigger, contrary to the recommendations of the Samuel Report.

“The government recognises the risks global warming poses to Australia’s unique ecosystems and the link between climate and biodiversity. We will address this by embedding climate considerations in all roles and functions of government,” the government said.

Despite this pronouncements, the Greens are confident that the proposed climate trigger policy is still on the table.

“The Greens will push for a climate trigger in new environment laws to stop more coal and gas mines, as well as an end to native forest logging,” Ms. Hanson-Young said.

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