SYDNEY – Australia’s parliament sat on Tuesday in Canberra for the first time since Labor won office in an election that also saw the Greens party win record seats, reflecting Australians’ concern about climate change amid worsening bushfires and floods.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says his government, which holds a majority in the lower house, will introduce 18 pieces of legislation, including a climate change bill to enshrine a 43% emissions reduction target by 2030, which was opposed by the former conservative Liberal government.
Labor needs the support of the Greens, which hold 12 seats in the Senate, plus at least one independent, to pass the legislation through the upper house.
Greens leader Adam Bandt is in negotiations with the government, and said on Tuesday the 43% target was “weak”, and had been set by Labor based on keeping coal fired power stations in the system.
The Greens nonetheless preferred to “improve and pass” the legislation, and had asked for wording to be changed so the 43% target is a floor and not a ceiling, he said in an ABC radio interview.
Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the government would make minor wording changes, but had a mandate for its climate change policy.
“There are things we have made more explicit in the bill that we will be introducing into parliament, including how the Paris mechanism works to require future targets to be higher than previous targets,” he told reporters, after talks with the Greens.
Labor says it cannot support the Greens call for an end to new coal and gas projects. Coal prices surged to make it Australia’s most valuable export in May.
The election was notable for more than a dozen independents with a climate change focus winning seats in the lower house. They will make their first speeches to parliament from Tuesday evening.
The government will release updated economic forecasts to parliament on July 28 to account for faster inflation and rising interest rates.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Michael Perry)