An Oppositional Minority Dominates the Detailed Regulatory Engagement on a Key Climate Policy, Contrasting with Top Line Public Support

New analysis shows heavy emitters push back against ambitious reforms of Australia’s Safeguard Mechanism

July 11 2023

Significant numbers of companies and their associations from heavy emitting sectors did not support ambitious reform of the Safeguard Mechanism, despite increasing top-line statements supporting action to combat climate change new analysis by climate think tank InfluenceMap shows. The research, based on an analysis of 85 consultation responses from 42 influential companies and industry associations, exposes a clear discrepancy between public statements and actual engagement with climate policies.

The findings paint a concerning picture of the climate policy landscape in Australia. Out of the evaluated responses, a significant 62% expressed an overall negative or oppositional stance towards ambitious reform, while only 19% were supportive overall.

In contrast, 92% of the entities that negatively engaged had previously expressed top line support for either the net-zero by 2050 target, the Paris Agreement, or the need for climate policy in Australia, in the past 12 months.

The governments reforms of the Safeguard Mechanism aim to ensure that emissions do not continue to rise under the policy, and that the policy ensures Australia’s largest emitters do their proportional share of abatement to meet Australia’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas targets.

This analysis highlights that corporate entities across the fossil fuel, mining, and heavy industry/ industrial sectors have been actively involved in extensive advocacy efforts aimed at weakening and obstructing the reforms. It also reveals the lack of engagement on the reforms from non-heavy emitting sectors, such as finance and big tech.

The analysis also suggests that corporate advocacy during the engagement process may have influenced policy changes in the final Safeguard Mechanism reforms. These changes include the introduction of a price cap on Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU's), adjustments to "deemed surrender" provisions, and modifications to interest rates on borrowing.

InfluenceMap senior analyst Tom Holen said: "This research shines a critical light on the contradictory actions of influential companies and associations within heavy emitting sectors. While they publicly endorse climate action, their active opposition to key elements of the Safeguard Mechanism reforms demonstrates a clear hypocrisy."

“Also noteworthy is the overwhelming dominance from a few negative sectors in the policy debate, placing Australia’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas targets at risk."

“In contrast, many other sectors of the economy have not publicly engaged, despite growing support for urgent climate action from Australian citizens, policymakers, and corporates across sectors.”

Examples of unsupportive positions include:

  • Significant opposition came from the oil and gas sector, with Origin Energy, Woodside Energy and Alinta Energy all holding overall negative positions.
  • Likewise, from the mining sector, with Rio Tinto, Fortescue, Glencore and Whitehaven Coal all appearing to not support ambitious reform in each of the respective consultations responses.
  • There was also negative engagement from heavy industry and industrials, with noticeable companies such as BlueScope Steel and Adbri also appearing oppositional.

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For further information, please contact:

Tom Holen, Senior Analyst, InfluenceMap (London) E: