Canberra, Australia ( Associated Press) – Australia’s parliament sat on Tuesday for the first time since the May elections, with the new prime minister setting a greenhouse gas reduction target enshrined in law.
Legislation that would force Australia to reduce its emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by the end of the decade will be introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s centre-left Labor Party has a narrow majority in the House, it will need the support of senators from outside government ranks to get the bill through the upper house.
If Labor can persuade all 12 senators in the Minor Greens party to support the bill, it would need only one more senator from the remaining six available to secure a majority.
The Greens want Australia to reduce its emissions by 75% by 2030.
The conservative coalition, which will rule for nine years until the May 21 election, will not budget from a 2015 Paris commitment to reduce emissions by between 26% and 28%.
Albanese said voters and business groups supported the 43% target.
“Our policy is well thought out,” Albanese said. “It was announced, it was hyped, in fact, it got a mandate.”
Labor has agreed to some of the Greens’ demands, which the bill stated that any target was a floor, not a roof, and that the government’s ambition would not be undermined.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said his party needed more concessions and talks would continue.
Bandt said the government should stop approving new coal and gas projects and adopt an ambitious target of over 43%.
“We are very concerned that the bill may put that weak goal into law in a way that will put a constraint on future governments that may be willing to act according to science,” Bandt said.
The new government has already officially informed the United Nations about the 43% target.
If in future the administration tries to reduce the target it wants the target enshrined in the law.
Six new Greens lawmakers were sworn in on Tuesday, three in the House and three in the Senate. Bandt described the election result as the party’s best ever.
Both major parties lost out to candidates who promised more action on climate change.
The conservative Liberal Party lost six House seats, considered safest to so-called teal independents: a greener shade than the party’s traditional blue.
The number of MPs unaffiliated from major parties in the House has increased from seven in the previous Parliament to 16 in the new Parliament,
This is the largest number of non-aligned MPs in the 151-seat house since the Liberal Party was formed in 1944.
Some observers say this trend suggests that Australia has few years of majority government.
Australia has had only a minority government since World War II. A Labor minority government was elected in 2010 and ran for a three-year term.
Ian McAllister, an Australian National University political scientist who surveyed voters after the election, said a large number wanted more action on climate change than the major parties were ready to take.
“We asked about climate change. These days it’s about the second or third most important issue, whereas 10 or 15 years ago it was probably the fifth or the sixth and it’s very much associated with young voters,” McAllister said.
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