Greens want to ‘improve and pass’ Labor’s climate bill but remain critical of 43% target

by Sarah Martin
Adam Bandt says state of environment report and pressure from Pacific Islands leaders should be enough for Labor to negotiate on emissions

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, has said his “preference” is to pass Labor’s climate bill, but said the government must be prepared to negotiate to improve the legislation and its “weak” 43% emissions reduction target.

After a meeting of the party’s 16 MPs and senators at a retreat near Brisbane on Wednesday, Bandt said a consensus had been reached to enter into formal negotiations with the government with the aim of amending the legislation.

There is not yet an agreement on whether to block or pass the legislation if it remains unamended, but Bandt remained steadfast in his criticism of the draft bill despite calls for the Greens to pass it through the Senate.

The state of the environment report and the Pacific Island leaders give the government all the justification it needs to do more,” Bandt said in a statement. “Our preference is to improve and pass this bill, but the government must come to the table.”

Similar to the concerns raised by the Climate 200-backed independent MPs, the Greens criticised the adequacy of the target, and support the need for a ratchet mechanism and the need to make explicit in the legislation that 43% is a “floor not a ceiling” and that for new coal and gas projects could lift pollution.

“The Greens will begin formal negotiations with the government on its climate bill, but we’re concerned that the government’s desire to open new coal and gas mines will make the climate crisis worse,” Bandt said.

“Europe is burning and Australia’s environment is collapsing, but the government wants to open new coal and gas mines. You don’t put the fire out while pouring petrol on it.

“As well as the weak target that means more fires and floods, the Greens are concerned that the bill as drafted is a barrier to government lifting the weak 43% targets, isn’t ‘Dutton-proof’ against a future government that wants to lower the targets, doesn’t require government to actually do anything to cut pollution and allows more coal and gas.

“We will engage in good faith negotiations with the government, and we hope the government will drop its insistence on having a weak target and opening more coal and gas.”

Victorian Greens senator Lidia Thorpe said on Twitter that Australia “cannot keep opening up new coal and gas projects”.

“Europe is burning, the Pacific Islands and Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait Islands) are literally sinking,” she said.

“This isn’t about the perfect climate policy, it’s about survival.”

The climate and energy minister, Chris Bowen, has been speaking to crossbench MPs and the Greens about proposed amendments, saying he is prepared to consider “sensible” changes that remain in line with the government’s mandate.

He has not ruled out including a ratchet mechanism in the bill, which would allow the 43% commitment to be lifted in the future without the need for further legislation.

When asked on Tuesday if the state of the environment report was not justification for boosting the target, the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said there would be no change to Labor’s commitment.

“On the 43% target, we made a promise to the Australian people and we will keep that promise as a government,” she said.