Environment minister Greg Hunt

7 January 2014 — There will be no legal limit for pollution under the Emissions Reduction Fund, and also no punitive measures enforced for exceeding pollution targets, according to the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Mr Hunt on Monday [6 January] told The Australian the ERF was not designed to be punitive, and companies would not be punished under direct action if they did not meet their carbon emissions target.

The government would instead introduce “flexible compliance arrangements”.

“One approach that could be considered would be to set an initial transition period during which compliance action for exceeding baselines would not apply,” the green paper stated.

The green paper was released on December 20, just as business left for the Christmas break. Submissions on the paper are due 21 February, though comment has already begun to filter in.

Acting opposition environment spokesman Tony Burke said the ERF was a “dressed up slush fund”.

“What is clear in the green paper is that there is no requirement for business to reduce carbon pollution,” Mr Burke said. “The policy offers no response for businesses that increase pollution.”

ACF climate campaigner Jamie Hanson said there were two problems with the policy: “there is no legal limit on pollution, and the targets it assumes are simply far too low to satisfy our international obligations.”

“These aren’t targets, they’re wishes,” Mr Hanson said. “All independent modelling shows that this policy will not cut pollution by anywhere near the levels required.

“What Australians need to see are policies that cut pollution in line with our commitments to other cuts. The Emissions Reduction Fund won’t achieve that, but our existing laws can.”

See our round-up of the ERF green paper, including highlights related to the property industry.