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Safeguard Mechanism – Consultation on draft guidelines update

The Safeguard Mechanism reforms commenced in July 2023, however changes are still ongoing around the legislation. Here’s an update on what to expect around setting international best practice benchmarks and production variables.

Currently the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment & Water (DCCEEW) are focusing on international best practice benchmarks, and how we will incorporate these into the Australian reforms.

In late 2023 we expect the department to develop and consult on the best practice benchmarks for the production variables, expected to be enforced from financial year 2024.

Baseline decline rates are set at 4.9% each year until 2030. Post 2030, the indication is these decline rates will move into 5-year increment blocks, although this will be confirmed in the 2027 consultations. All new facilities will be allocated a baseline determined by these variables, and eventually they will affect all sites.

Controversy is expected to arise around this new baseline being based on the facilities that have the lowest emissions intensity globally. That means if Japan, for example, has a game-changing technology advancement that is suitable for their economy, it will set the benchmark for Australia, thus influencing our production variables. The proposal is to use two (or possibly more) facilities with the lowest emissions, and average two years of their emissions data.

The consultation paper does allow for a calibration for the Australian climate and geology, but not skills. As such, if a new technology does come into play not only will the technology become sought after for its benefits, but the skilled labour to run it will also be in demand.

The departments is targeting a FY24 start for the new international best practice priority production variables, with additional production variables to follow from FY25. That means we should have these reforms consulted on and made law by the end of this calendar year.

Further to this, the current draft of the new production variables update has been released by the department.

The most significant proposed changes would affect the new “Run-of-mine” coal variable which has been established to create a single production variable for all emissions around mining, including any coal mine waste gas (CMWG) emissions. The coal sector will continue to be heavily targeted by the reform changes. By FY30, even those on-site specific intensities baselines will be moved to a 50:50 split between those site-specific values and the default value.

Submissions on the consultations around the production variables will close on the 11th of August 2023.