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ABC AM 28 March 2023 - Safeguard

JOURNALIST: So starting off with the safeguard mechanism, we've seen various amendments put forward today, the Greens agreeing to support it. What's your thinking on these amendments that have been put forward?

POCOCK: I've been clear that I think we need more ambitious climate policy, economy-wide carbon pricing, but that's not what's on the table. So these amendments really tighten up the safeguard mechanism reforms, seek to ensure that it's actually going to drive down emissions from these 215 facilities that are captured by the safeguard mechanism. I've still got reservations about the way that offsets are using the mechanism and have been pushing the government for other commitments to ensure that we are addressing some of those concerns.

JOURNALIST: So on offsets, we heard today that any facility accounts for 30% or more of their shortfall, with offsets will have to report as to why and explain that. What do you make of that and does that go far enough. Is it an effective cap on emissions, on offset usage?

POCOCK: It's widely recognised that you need to embed a carbon mitigation hierarchy. So you're really incentivising onsite abatement, and the last resort is offsets. And so it is right that if you're using a lot of offsets, you should have to account for why you're doing that. It's a good transparency measure. It's not going to stop companies doing that, but at least we'll know which companies are doing that and hopefully over time, after the first review, we will get more of an embedded mitigation hierarchy that is forcing companies to reduce their emissions on site. 

JOURNALIST: So what would you ideally see that looking like? Would it be any of the facilities that use more than 15%, 20% or something like a smaller percentage would have to report and there'd be consequences if they went down that path?

POCOCK: As it stands, it's a transparency measure. Schemes around the world have various levels of caps on the use of offsets. The thing about the safeguard mechanism is that it's not economy wide. It's 215 facilities and you're lumping in genuinely hard to abate industries like cement, steel aluminium, with fossil fuels. We know how to debate them, we know how to stop their emissions and new fossil fuel projects potentially. So it's a really hard thing to get right. And my concern and you know, I put in additional comments to the Senate committee with 16 recommendations that I think will improve this and the government has agreed in full and part to the majority of those. And so while this isn't perfect, I think it should be seen as a starting point and there's a lot more work to do.

JOURNALIST: And so as a result you'll be supporting it?

POCOCK: As a result of the amendments we've seen, announced today by Minister Bowen and Adam Bandt and then in subsequent conversations and and some further commitments from the government, I'll be supporting the safeguard mechanism.

JOURNALIST: And just finally, on the offset side of things, would you have previously called for a cap on the use of offsets? That's right. Yeah. So have you received any sort of indication of the movement more in that direction as a result of that?

POCOCK: The government is committed to looking at a cap at the review. That's one of the things that they'll look at. Again, across the world, there are caps. Australia will join Kazakhstan as the only two countries without a cap. Yes, there's a whole bunch of transparency measures, but we should just see this as a start. There's so much work to do.


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