Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has ruled out banning new coal and gas projects as part of negotiations with the Greens over the government’s proposed emissions reduction and environmental protection overhauls.

Speaking to ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday morning, Bowen also defended the use of carbon offsets for polluters to abide by an emissions limit under the safeguard mechanism, saying without “flexibility” industries like cement producers would have to lay off workers or reduce production.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen says a ban on new coal and gas projects won’t form part of negotiations with the Greens.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The government and the Greens have been involved in a standoff over upcoming bills, with Greens leader Adam Bandt saying the government should ban new coal and gas projects in return for the party’s support of the safeguard mechanism.

Firming up his language surrounding the game of brinkmanship, Bowen said while Labor wasn’t proposing new coal projects, it wouldn’t ban them either, it wanted all big emitters to be subject to the same pollution reduction regime.

“Any new development has emissions implications, whether it’s industrial or resources … that’s why I’m so determined to get a framework in place to see those emissions come down,” he said.

“If the safeguards reforms don’t pass, then there’s no constraint on carbon in our biggest emitters, emissions will continue to go up just as they have since the safeguards reforms were brought down in 2016.”

Asked whether there would be any ban or timeframe to ban new coal and gas projects, Bowen responded: “No, that’s not part of our agenda, and it won’t be part of those negotiations”.

The safeguard mechanism applies to the country’s biggest polluters and would mandate the reduction of emissions by 4.9 per cent each year, however, that target could also be achieved by buying carbon offsets, as Bowen said some businesses would find it difficult to meet that target.

“Now, if people want to argue for limits on offsets, they have to show me how an industry like cement could reduce emissions without laying people off or reducing production,” he said.

The Greens are also calling for a ‘climate trigger’ that would require consideration of long-term climate impacts before certain projects were approved. Bowen hinted that aspect could be addressed through Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s reforming of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Bowen dismissed the need for an independent review of the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project following news of a tunnel borer in the renewable energy project having ground to a halt and a hole having opened up at the surface above, but repeated his dissatisfaction at the pace of construction.

“The Finance Minister and I have appointed a new chief executive, Dennis Barnes, he knows that very high on his KPIs is getting this project as fast as humanly possible back on track,” he said.

Bowen also said he asked state and territory ministers to agree to a review of green hydrogen to maximise Australia’s export potential of the renewable energy source.

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