Aussie climate ambition pulls timidly ahead

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Albanese in Sydney
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during a joint press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern following a meeting at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Sydney, Australia, June 10, 2022. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE, July 27 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Australia’s new Labor government on Wednesday unveiled a bill to enshrine in law its pledge to reduce the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

That’s hardly ambitious: State policies are already on track to achieve most of that. But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s administration has shown a willingness to compromise with the global warming-conscious independent lawmakers who did well in May’s election, amending the bill to make the goal a floor that can only be increased. Passing the legislation would also unlock at least $131 billion ($90 billion) of investment over the next decade, estimates the Investor Group on Climate Change.

Meanwhile Westpac (WBC.AX), the country’s second-largest lender, wants to reduce the emissions of oil and gas projects it finances by 23% between 2021 and 2030, among other goals. Rival ANZ (ANZ.AX) has promised to lend an extra A$15 billion to renewables and green infrastructure in Queensland should its A$4.9 billion agreed deal for Suncorp (SUN.AX) bank succeed.

Trouble is, political and financial support remains for coal and gas exports, which are big contributors to Australia’s domestic emissions. A solid plan to phase these out would unlock even more climate dividends. (By Antony Currie)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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