CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s new government is putting climate change at the top of its legislative agenda when Parliament sits next month for the first time since the May 21 election, with bills aimed at enshrining a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and making electric cars cheaper, a minister said on Wednesday. .
A bill will be introduced to commit Australia to reducing its emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 when Parliament sits on July 26, said Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen at the National Press Club.
Another bill would abolish customs duties and import taxes for electric vehicles that are cheaper than the luxury car threshold of A$77,565 ($53,580).
Just 1.5% of cars sold in Australia are electric or plug-in hybrids, and passenger cars account for almost 10% of the country’s emissions, the government has said.
The new centre-left Labor Party government expects electric vehicles to account for 89% of new car sales in Australia by 2030.
The government fleet will be converted to 75% emission-free vehicles, strengthening the market for used electric vehicles as government vehicles are sold after three years.
The new government has already officially notified the United Nations of Australia’s more ambitious 2030 target than the previous administration led by the Conservative Liberal Party had pursued, a reduction from 26% to 28%.
But Bowen said legislating the 43% target would create greater confidence.
“It’s about certainty and stability, primarily for the commercial investment community,” Bowen said.
“It sends a signal if a parliament hasn’t legislated that maybe the country isn’t serious. Maybe a future government, God forbid, a Liberal government, could backtrack,” Bowen added.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has ruled out his Liberal Party senators pushing the Labor objective through the upper house. The Labor Party holds only 26 seats out of the 76 seats in the Senate and therefore needs outside help to pass its legislative program.
If Labor got all 12 senators from the minor Greens to back the target, the government would only have to persuade one of the remaining six independent or non-aligned lawmakers to achieve a majority.
Greens leader Adam Bandt has said he will push the government to ban new coal mines and gas projects when this target legislation is negotiated. The Greens want Australian emissions cut by 75% by 2030.
Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions increased last year by 0.8%, or 4.1 million metric tonnes (4.5 million US tonnes).
Bowen described the increase as one of the biggest emissions spikes in 15 years and blamed the previous government’s inaction for nine years in office.
Factors that caused the increase included a 4% rise in transport emissions as pandemic travel restrictions eased and 4.2% more agricultural emissions as rains ended years of drought over large areas of southeastern Australia.