This is part of the Change in Legitimacy in Australia argument, but got a bit too long for that. It at pretty low level of analysis. But the point appears to be that the context of legitimacy struggles in Narrabri, and Australia generally, are changing for business. The Business Council of Australia, after a long period of climate action refusal, has issued two booklets on business climate action Achieving a Net Zero Economy and Sunshot: Australia’s opportunity to create 395,000 clean export jobs. The first is described as:

a blueprint to achieve net-zero emissions and position Australia to reap an economic dividend of $890 billion and 195,000 jobs over the next 50 years….

“We believe Australia can achieve a more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target of between 46 to 50 per cent below 2005 levels.

Achieving net-zero with more jobs and stronger regions. BCA 9 October 2021

This is a major change, and challenges the Federal Government’s (and the Opposition’s) lack of 2030 targets. However, in the official blueprint they point out how important fossil fuels are for exports, and still have about 20% of total energy production coming from fossil fuels by 2070 [1] p.33. So to achieve net zero, the plan needs a lot of new and working offsets or working CCS which seems improbable. It would appear they are ignoring carbon budgets, or hoping accounting can balance real emissions. The Business Council has also announced support for the NSW Government targets and their:

detailed, investment driven plan that accelerates the deployment of proven, commercial technologies to reach this ambitious goal…

Regional NSW is set to be a net beneficiary from the more ambitious target as the plan delivers renewable energy zones and hydrogen hubs to boost green manufacturing in regional centres

NSW emissions target backed by action. BCA 29 September 2021

Narrabri is not in a Renewable Energy Zone, but that might be an opportunity, as it is not constrained or as open to corporate takeover. The Business Council is, not surprisingly, not a promotor of community energy or cooperative energy. Finally, in the second booklet, they argue that:

Australia could create 395,000 new jobs and generate $89 billion in new trade by 2040 through investment in clean energy exports….

[Australia needs] a new energy transition authority with representatives from government, industry and unions to manage the disruption to regional economies and workers dependent on carbon-intensive industries

Sunshot : Australia’s opportunity to create 395,000 clean export jobs. BCA 14 October 2021

This is also pretty surprising, as the Business Council is not normally in favour of unions anywhere, and it is talking about ‘transition’. As the Australian Financial Review remarked:

As absolutely no one has failed to notice, this shift in economic analysis comes three years after it labelled a slightly more modest proposal from the Labor Party as “economy-wrecking”.

Robin. Macquarie is green with a side of coal-seam. AFR 10 October 2021

On Sky News Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia explained the change:

The facts have changed…. three years ago energy prices were going through the roof and now they’ve stabilised..

Secondly, the markets have moved, over 50 per cent of the ASX is committed to net zero targets. Businesses are moving dramatically. You’ve got giant companies like BP and Shell committing to net zero. You’ve got companies like Fortescue Metals, you’ve got Rio Tinto, BHP, BlueScope – all reducing their emissions at a really rapid pace. 

[Thirdly] three years ago, the US had pulled out of Paris, and now they back in but they’re back in with a higher target. Japan has got a higher target. Canada has got a higher target. And we have always said you’ve got to calibrate with what the rest of the world is doing. 

We’ve now got a technology roadmap [cf here; comment here] we didn’t have one of those before.

[The BCA supports] the safeguard mechanism… it’s a clever mechanism, it puts a cap on emissions. And we’re saying, we agree with the government, you’ve got to do this through technology. 

our plan is basically saying; use the government’s existing mechanism to drive those new technologies, to bring forward the early action. The safeguard mechanism which has been well-used by business now, well-respected mechanism. That’s the government’s mechanism. And the point is, if we want to get this done through technology and we don’t send some kind of signal or take too long, if we take too long we add a lot of risk later on. 

Jennifer Westacott interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News AM Agenda. BCA 11 October 2021

I’m not sure if Westacott is implying that if the US retreats from targets or COP fails then they will also retreat from targets, basically the justification seems to be everyone is doing it, we emulate these people, and acting is pragmatic. Behind this, probably lurks the fear of importing countries penalising Australia for inadequate targets or policies through rules such as carbon tariffs [2] [3], [4], [5], [6].

Clearly one rhetorical technique is to praise the government here, and align the Council’s apparently radically different policy with “business as usual”. The “safeguard mechanism,” also known as the Emissions Reduction Fund mentioned above, seems to be a voluntary mechanism for large operators, to pledge to reduce emissions from a “baseline”, and receive a taxpayer funded subsidy to do so. If they go the wrong way and exceed the baseline, they can apply for more time, a change in the baseline, or an exemption. Even an official government website says:

This significant level of flexibility which allows baselines (or GHG emissions limits) to be readily adjusted has led some critics to question the effectiveness of the safeguard mechanism and whether it will achieve its aim of ensuring that emissions reductions purchased through the ERF are not displaced by rising emissions elsewhere. The same critics claim that the safeguard mechanism ‘gives the green light’ to increase greenhouse emissions to some enterprises.

Australia’s climate safeguard mechanism Parliamentary Library 3 December 2018

[see also Reputex]

While the Business Council appears to choose the easy way forward in that it supports an inactive Federal Government and pretends the government is active, rather than risk standing up against it, this is fundamental change, even though the BCA has tried to appear as if they have always supported climate action, they have previously retreated. They have also supported using Kyoto carry-over credits to meet Australia’s emissions reduction target, which is supporting fake emissions reduction, and have had an Energy and Climate Change Committee which included representatives from Origin Energy, Orica, Santos, BP, Ausgrid, Chevron, BHP, Caltex, Shell and ExxonMobil. Cynics may expect a similar result this time, or that they will shift support to nuclear. They will certainly be attacked for this new position. However rewriting an organisation’s history is, in some ways, a recognition of where they should have been, and a resolution of cognitive dissonance.

It still indicates context is changing – whether the change is reinforced or not by the actions of others, is another question.


A few days later the ‘Climate Leaders Coalition‘ a board linking 32 major Australian companies including BHP, Coles, CBA, Citibank, Deloitte, Fortesque Metals, Microsoft, Qantas, Rio Tinto, and Santos, claiming a total revenue of $305 billion released a document entitled Roadmap to 2030: Shifting to a Low Carbon Future. This also indicates significant change. However, again they fall into the problem of methane fuels, and allowing gas companies to pretend that storing CO2 at the point of production somehow will act as an offset and reduce emissions from gas burning – which of course it will not (cf p.43). Any gas being burnt without the CO2 from the burning being caught and stored or used, is contributing greenhouse gas emissions, especially if coal is not being shut down. This seems to be in conflict with earlier principles they elaborate.