Business divided on ‘ambitious’ Labor carbon cuts plan

“And the ALP policy seems to do that.”

Manufacturing Australia said the ALP’s policy appeared to recognise the need for a nuanced, “sector-by-sector, almost business-by-business” approach rather than the “blunt instrument” of forcing emissions reductions where they might not be achievable.

“What remains to be seen is how that all works in the context of very ambitious targets,” Mr Eade said.

“There is likely to be some uncertainty as those details are worked out.”

While many business leaders cautiously welcomed Labor’s plan, the key mining industry lobby group argued it failed to recognise the high emissions intensity of Australia’s economy and “falls short on reducing emissions at the least cost”.

The Minerals Council of Australia criticised the decision to exclude credits carried over from the Kyoto agreement to help reduce national emissions and meet the more recent Paris commitments.

“As a major resources and energy exporter and a large country with a relatively small population, Australia needs a climate change policy which recognises the high relative emissions intensity of our economy,” the chief executive Tania Constable said.

“Labor’s commitment to use international offsets to reduce emissions is not enough in reducing the overall cost and impact of climate change measures on Australian households and businesses, especially in regional communities.”

The Minerals Council said the Labor policy also raised some “critical questions” like how much of the cost burden of emissions reduction would fall on Australian industry, what industries would “need to do a disproportionate amount of heavy lifting to reduce emissions while remaining internationally competitive,” and how many offsets would industries need to purchase to meet the rules, and at what cost?

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox described the target as “a heavy lift” for many parts of the economy and said it would only be workable if delivered in tandem with commitments to avoid trade distortions and allow many sources of “flexibility”, and to facilitate major low-carbon investments.

The National Farmers Federation gave qualified support to the plan, saying it provided a “comprehensive framework and pathway forward”.

“An assurance that agriculture won’t directly bear any additional burden in reaching Labor’s proposed 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 is positive as is a guarantee that a carbon tax or a carbon pricing mechanism will not be introduced,” chief executive Tony Mahar said.

But the NFF said it had reservations about the potential impact Labor’s 45 per cent greenhouse gas emissions target could have on agriculture if higher costs emerged for inputs such as electricity and fuel.

Mark Butler, Labor’s climate change and energy spokesman, said a Shorten government would work with the biggest industrial emitters to help them “cut pollution, grow their business and create a cleaner future for the next generation”.

He said Labor would consult with industry experts on the baselines that should apply to individual entities and how they would decrease over time.

“Labor’s approach isn’t about punishing polluters,” he said, “it’s about partnering with industry to find real, practical solutions to cut pollution, in a way that protects and grows industry and jobs.”

Business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Darren is the mining and agribusiness reporter for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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