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NATURE POSITIVE: Industry concern reignited as Labor considers pulling trigger on extra climate green tape

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek did not rule out introducing a climate trigger when quizzed by The Nightly, but suggested it was not on the table imminently. 
A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek did not rule out introducing a climate trigger when quizzed by The Nightly, but suggested it was not on the table imminently.  Credit: The Nightly/The West Australian

Federal Labor is considering adding new layers of bureaucracy to its botched ‘Nature Positive’ reforms, reigniting concern the industry battle with Anthony Albanese and his team over the controversial policy is far from over.

The Government is under pressure from the Greens to include a “climate trigger” in its overhaul of the nation’s environment laws to garner crossbench support, despite previously telling business such a mechanism was off the table.

A climate trigger essentially means any major mining or gas project would require Ministerial approval before proceeding. This is on top of the existing environmental approvals process.

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A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek did not rule out introducing a climate trigger when quizzed by The Nightly but suggested it was not on the table imminently.

“The legislation before the Parliament this week includes the establishment of a national independent environment protection agency with strong new powers and penalties. It does not include a climate trigger,” she said.

Association of Mining & Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce blasted the Government’s stance on the issue.

“The Commonwealth already has its own process to measure carbon emissions, called the safeguard mechanism, and now they want to duplicate their own system by implementing a climate trigger,” he said.

“They just can’t help themselves.

“It’s not possible for the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to be a regulator for absolutely everything. This is something nobody asked for and nobody needs.”

AMEC's Warren Pearce addresses the media.
AMEC's Warren Pearce addresses the media. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

Introducing a climate trigger would also be at odds with recommendations made by the independent expert that Labor tapped to design the environmental reforms — Graeme Samuels.

“Even respected Professor Graeme Samuel AC recommended a climate trigger not be part of the reforms,” Mr Pearce said.

“They have ignored his expertise.”

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson also weighed in, stating any regulation that creates duplication “also creates inefficiency and uncertainty”.

“A full picture of the reform architecture for Nature Positive is yet to be provided,” she said.

“That clarity vacuum jeopardises the sustainability of operations and the delivery timeframes for new projects needed to deliver the energy transition.

“For our industry, that uncertainty diverts internal resources and draws businesses away from the immediate key task of decarbonising the sector.”

Ms Tomkinson said the CME will articulate its concerns and recommendations in a “comprehensive response” to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications.

Shadow Environment Minister Jonathon Duniam said Labor reneging on its promise to not legislate a climate trigger would be “another significant breach of trust” and “downright destructive”.

“The feedback from industry and environmental stakeholders is that the Government need to get their Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act law reforms right first, then move on to other areas,” he said.

“Right now, Labor and the Greens are putting the cart before the horse and they need to come back to economic and environmental reality.”

In April The Nightly revealed that the Albanese Government’s dubious environmental reforms were falling apart, but Labor was still set to push ahead with establishing a new federal environmental watchdog — Environment Protection Australia — to appease the Greens.

It came a month after industry and business groups emerged from a closed-door briefing session in Canberra with a clear belief Labor was prepared to slow progress on its controversial plans — which at one stage included a proposal for 40km speed limits across the highways of WA’s sparsely populated Pilbara region — and instead pursue pieces at a time.

The increasingly possible introduction of a climate trigger is seen by industry sources as another policy initiative to appease the Greens and other radical elements of the Labor party.

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