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Climate Council casts spotlight on Australia's major polluters

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The Climate Council has personally written to the CEOs of Australia's 10 biggest industrial polluters, asking for real cuts to their emissions every single year to 2030.

The 10 companies at the centre of attention are responsible for more than half of all the harmful emissions produced under the safeguard mechanism — a policy intended to stop the increase of greenhouse gas emissions from gas and oil extraction.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Climate Council confirmed it has written to these companies — a list that includes Rio Tinto, Chevron, Woodside and Santos — requesting that they “publicly commit” to making “absolute cuts to emissions each year to 2030”.

“Your company has made a commitment to shareholders, financial markets and the Australian community to be carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner. We therefore urge you to back these commitments up by making real cuts to emissions, starting from 1 July 2023 when reformed safeguard mechanism settings are proposed to take effect,” the letter reads.

“Take the first step by making a strong and public commitment to reduce your emissions in absolute terms each year to 2030, in line with the scale of effort needed from your firm now to see Australia meet and beat our newly legislated emissions reduction target. The Australian community is watching.”

The Labor government is currently said to be drawing up plans to reform the safeguard mechanism. However, the Australian Conservation Foundation recently issued a warning noting that the government will struggle to cut industrial emissions — which have increased by 20 per cent in five years — if it continues to allow new coal and gas developments.

“The way the laws are currently set up allows our biggest polluters to keep polluting as much as they like. If they happen to go over the very generous thresholds that are set, then they can buy some cheap offsets and carry on polluting. This has to change,” said Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie.

In a direct message to Australia's biggest polluters, Ms McKenzie cautioned the CEOs that “we have a narrow window this decade to avoid the worst climate impacts”.

“The only way to do this is to cut emissions, so the time for pollution-as-usual is over,” she said.

“Australian households, small businesses and other parts of our local economy are stepping up to get us towards net zero. It's time for big polluters to start pulling their weight in this national transformation.”