"Ten coalmines could increase their greenhouse gas pollution until 2030 while
being financially rewarded under an Albanese government climate policy that is
meant to cut industrial emissions, according to a new analysis.
The analysis of how different facilities are treated under the safeguard
mechanism – the government’s main policy to deal with major polluters – has
prompted calls for changes to deal with this “perverse outcome” and require
every coalmine to take additional steps to cut emissions.
The Coalition introduced the safeguard mechanism after it repealed a national
carbon price scheme, with a promise it would be used to stop industrial
emissions rising. In practice, companies were often allowed to increase their
pollution limits without penalty.
Labor revamped the scheme earlier this year so that 215 big polluting
facilities have to reduce emissions intensity by up to 4.9% a year or use
contentious carbon offsets.
The government said facilities would be given a new limit – known as a baseline
– based initially on their current emissions, but that would eventually include
the average pollution within a particular industry.
Coalmines have proved challenging to fit within this model. The emissions
intensity – how much pollution is released per tonne of coal mined – varies
markedly, with underground mines usually releasing more than open-cut mines.
The government attempted to address this by using site-specific pollution
levels to help calculate coalmine emissions baselines for a longer period than
that used for other industries. By 2030, coalmines will be set baselines based
on a weighted formula that relies equally on site-specific data and the
The analysis by Energy & Resource Insights – commissioned by the Lock the Gate
Alliance – found this would still allow about 20% of Australian coalmines to
significantly increase their emissions this decade, compared with today’s
levels. It estimated some New South Wales mines – Moolarben, Wilpinjong and
Mangoola – could be able to more than double their emissions baselines over
The owners of those mines could receive a financial benefit without taking
measures to cut pollution as they would be issued “safeguard credits” if they
emitted less than their baseline. Credits can be sold to businesses that failed
to keep their emissions below their baseline to offset their additional
The analysis suggested the potential benefit to coalmines without taking any
action could be $180m."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics