Industry key to Labor's climate plan

A Sydney shopper

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Australia's conservative government on Tuesday announced billions of dollars in funding to cut carbon emissions in a pre-election pitch to entice voters increasingly frustrated with climate policy inaction.

If victorious in May's general election, Labor will expand the existing safeguard mechanism that holds companies to strict emissions caps and will apply it to 250 businesses.

"There will be no carbon tax, carbon pricing mechanism, or government revenue", Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

Reportedly, businesses will have to meet their declining baselines by either buying offsets to cover any difference, which will impose a cost on their operations, or by reducing their emissions to an agreed level.

The government has attacked this aspect, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying it would force Australian business to spend money on "carbon credits for Kazakhstan".

Opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler said that was rubbish.

"This policy would be a huge step forward from where we are now, but if the ALP is elected it will need to be rapidly ratcheted up to tackle the escalating climate crisis", she said. "Whether they are from the Australian carbon farming sector or overseas robust credible markets or the electricity sector, the important thing is for cuts in pollution to be achieved".

But experts say it might be a moot point with Australian abatement among the cheapest globally, at about $15 a tonne.

This would lead to businesses being able to choose the most efficient and cost-effective manner to offset emissions, and would also let them sell their own credits if they cut pollution below their baseline, he said.

A $300 million fund will help trade-exposed industries like steel, aluminium and cement manufacturing to remain internationally competitive.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor accused Labor of using the safeguard mechanism as "a Trojan horse for a carbon tax".

The Opposition will unveil its long-awaited climate change policy today, with Labor's platform to include subsidies for households taking up solar batteries and a new electric vehicle target of 50 per cent of new auto sales by 2030.

Labor has been under pressure for months to reveal how it will meet its 45 per cent emissions cut target, with the Coalition suggesting jobs are at risk by the hit to heavy industry.

Climate change policy should use all available means - including internationally recognised Kyoto credits - to reduce emissions and to meet our global obligations at least cost to Australians.

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