CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Australia's main opposition Labor Party plans to tighten rules around carbon emissions to cover the nation's 250 biggest industrial polluters and will set a target for electric vehicle sales if it wins elections next month.
With climate and energy policy shaping up to be a major issue for voters, Labor leader Bill Shorten unveiled a string of proposals on Monday (April 1), seeking to steal the limelight from Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government as it prepares to unveil the federal budget tomorrow.
Labor would set the emissions cap at 25,000 tonnes of direct carbon pollution annually, from the current 100,000 tonnes which only impacts 140 companies, according to a statement.
Qantas Airways Ltd., Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. and oil and gas producer Santos Ltd. would be among companies hit by the new threshold, based on information reported to the Clean Energy Regulator.
The agricultural sector and electricity generation won't be subject to the new rules.
Businesses that beat their target will earn credits, which can be sold or carried over to meet their future pollution cap. Those who exceed the target would need to buy offsets, and could do so on international carbon markets.
Labor is also encouraging farmers to pursue greenhouse gas abatement projects, which would provide another supply of offsets that companies could buy.
Labor will also set up a A$300 million (S$289 million) fund for emissions intensive, trade-exposed industries such as steel, aluminum and cement to help them manage the transition to a low carbon economy, while remaining competitive.
Australia is heading for a federal election in May, with Labor currently ahead in the polls. The party is pledging much deeper emission cuts than the government and a major spending boost for clean energy projects.
A decade of political dithering and climate policy missteps have set Australia's patchwork power system adrift, ratcheting up manufacturing costs and hurting consumers with steep hikes in electricity prices and increased risk of blackouts.
The Liberal-National coalition government has focused energy policy on getting power bills down and announced over the weekend a one-time payment to low-income households to help manage their energy costs.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a Twitter post that Labor's plans would "smash industries, regions, jobs and wages."
Labor will target 50 per cent of new car sales to be electric vehicles by 2030 and ensure the government fleet reaches that goal by 2025.
To help achieve that, it will allow companies an upfront tax deduction to purchase electric vehicles for business purposes. It will also require all road upgrades funded by the federal government to have electric vehicle charging stations and strengthen vehicle emissions standards to bring Australian cars in line with the US.