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Bowen open to ratchet mechanism to win Greens over on climate

Phillip Coorey
Phillip CooreyPolitical editor

Climate Minister Chris Bowen is open to a change that would allow future governments to increase Labor’s 2030 emissions reduction target, if that is what it takes to win the support of the Greens for the legislation.

Mr Bowen said a so-called ratchet mechanism, which would enable Labor’s 2030 target of a 43 per cent reduction over 2005 levels to be lifted without legislation, was not necessary as the target was already a floor, rather than a ceiling.

“But ... if there are good-faith ideas to make the government’s intent even more explicit, then we’ll take those on board and consider those in good faith,” he told ABC’s Radio National.

Chris Bowen at last week’s Sydney Energy Forum: “We have wasted a decade, a decade of denials and delays.” Oscar Colman

Next week, parliament will sit for the first time since the May 21 election and the government has made the passage of its climate legislation a priority.

With the Coalition opposed to legislated targets, the government needs the support of the Greens and one other crossbencher in the Senate.


Greens leader Adam Bandt has complained repeatedly that the 43 per cent target is too low but the environment movement, as well as new ACT senator David Pocock, have pressured the Greens to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good and to bank the win.

Senator Pocock said the 43 per cent target should be regarded as a floor rather than a ceiling.

Mr Bowen and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese have stressed their target does not need to be legislated, and they would not make any change. Mr Bowen said on Monday a legislated target was preferable because it would provide badly needed certainty for investors and business.

“It allows those Australian companies and those international companies that want to invest in renewable energy to say to the international boards: ‘Hey, not only does Australia have a new government that gets it, the parliament gets it, they’re providing us with a framework with certainty going forward’.

“We have wasted a decade, a decade of denials and delays, so we are starting in 2022 to reach a 2030 target which is a 90-month window to achieve what is quite an ambitious program.

“Hence this legislation is desirable to help encourage that private sector investment.”


The government has already notified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of its commitment to a 43 per cent target. That target, or nationally determined contribution, has to be consistent with the Paris climate change protocols, which contain a ratcheting mechanism.

This, however, requires each subsequent target to be higher than the previous target. For example, if Labor set a new target for 2035, it would have to be higher than the 2030 target.

Mr Bowen also shot down a suggestion by Mr Bandt that the legislation be “Dutton proofed” so a subsequent Liberal government led by Peter Dutton could not undo it. Mr Bowen noted that one parliament cannot bind a future parliament.

“The best way of ensuring continued strong climate action is a good Labor government,” he said.


“If Mr Dutton is prime minister, we will not have good action on climate, and it doesn’t matter what the legislation says.”

Mr Dutton said legislation was not necessary to reach 43 per cent and Labor was just trying to wedge the opposition.

Mr Bowen also dismissed Mr Bandt’s insistence that Labor veto all future coal and gas approvals in return for support in the Senate.

He said any new energy projects would be subject to the emissions reduction limits to be imposed on the nation’s top emitters using a safeguards mechanism.

Phillip Coorey is the political editor based in Canberra. He is a two-time winner of the Paul Lyneham award for press gallery excellence. Connect with Phillip on Facebook and Twitter. Email Phillip at

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