The ACTU and Australian unions have been engaged in Australia’s climate and energy policy development for nearly three decades. Our consistent position has been that Australia needs ambitious and coherent climate and energy policy to limit the impacts of global warming, and that we also need industry planning, support, and resources to ensure that no workers or communities are left behind as we make the shift to net zero emissions.

We welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on the Safeguard Mechanism, as one of the critical tools contributing to the Government’s commitment to reduce national emissions to 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and reaffirming Australia’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. We acknowledge that the 2030 target is a floor and not a ceiling and hope that our national efforts can meet and beat this target in a way that supports and drives the creation of secure and well-paid jobs, particularly for those workers and their communities that have powered this country for so long.

The vast majority of safeguard facilities have union members in their employment. Their industries – predominantly mining and manufacturing – have secured Australia’s prosperity and provided, on the whole, good skilled jobs with good conditions over many years. Many of these industries are trade-exposed, but there is significant variation in the policy efforts being applied by Australia’s competitors to limiting their emissions. Many workers in these industries have highly specialised skills. The circumstances of these industries and facilities differ dramatically, so any efforts at reducing emissions need to take these into account.

Many of these industries are compatible, and indeed vital, to Australia thriving in a world moving towards a greater reliance on renewable energy.

The proposed timeline of instituting changes to the Safeguard Rule by 1 July 2023 is ambitious – but achievable. Our members’ jobs depend on Australia taking action on climate change, and employers making the critical investments to sustain their industries through the energy transition.

The consultation paper anticipates a significant update of the Safeguard Mechanism to reduce aggregate emissions from covered facilities. Australian Unions are putting forward a range of principles this update should adhere to, to achieve fair and meaningful outcomes for workers.