Australian Industry Group (Ai Group)

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Sydney, Australia

Climate Lobbying Overview: The Ai Group has actively engaged on Australian climate regulation, in its top-line messaging it appears to support ambitious action on climate change and the need for climate & energy policy. That said, Ai group appears to be somewhat unsupportive of certain, detailed policy measures and appears to continue to support the role of fossil fuels in the energy mix.

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy: Ai Group is a founding member of the Climate Roundtable, which supports the Paris Agreement and in December 2019, updated its statement to support a ‘well below 2C’ limit with efforts to pursue 1.5C. In 2020, Ai Group has stated it endorses both the Paris Agreement and a goal to reach net-zero by 2050. In November 2020, the Ai Group urged the government to support Zali Steggall's Climate Change Bill, which would introduce a legally-binding economy-wide target of net-zero by 2050, as well as introduce interim emissions targets. In October 2021, the Ai Group supported the formal announcement of a net-zero by 2050 target by the Australian government, and appeared to call for greater ambition. The group stressed the need to for more to be done to 'flesh out the plan' on how this can actually be achieved, and CEO Innes Willox stated that more needs to be done, including an update to Australia's 2030 target. Previously, Ai Group has advocated for the use of domestic and international offsets to in Australia’s bid to reduce emissions in December 2019, and repeatedly stresses the need to protect trade competitiveness in its communications on reducing emissions, i.e. in a federal election statement in March 2019.

Engagement with Climate-Related Regulations: AI Groups engagement with climate-related regulations appears to be mixed. In 2019, Ai Group advocated for the need for a climate and energy policy framework in Australia in its policy priorities document, while in 2018 the association stated support for the implementation of the National Energy Guarantee in a 2018 report. In its 2019 federal election statement, the Ai Group appears to advocate a preference for market-based solutions over other types of government intervention, however, does not rule out support for other types of government intervention.

On the other hand, AI Group has often taken positions on Australian climate policy that appear to have the impact of weakening the stringency of the policies in practices. While advocating for the implementation of the National Energy Guarantee as a framework, however, Ai Group supported the emission reduction target of 26% in 2018. This emissions target is on the lower end of the government’s 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 emissions reduction target and is significantly lower than the target recommended by the Climate Change Authority. In a March 2019 Pre-Election Statement, despite suggesting it supported “deeper emission reduction targets”, Ai Group advocated that the incoming government adjust the baseline trajectories of the Safeguard Mechanism to protect industry from trade exposure. Adjusting the baseline trajectories to reflect trade exposure and carbon leakage would likely weaken the emissions baselines for large emitting facilities. However, in its 2020 post-pandemic policy, the association supported the transition of the Safeguard Mechanism into a credit and baseline emissions trading scheme. In August 2021, Ai Group released a report on the effects the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) would have on Australia, where it appeared to support the CBAM while encouraging the end of free allowance and encouraging Australia to consider implementing its own CBAM. On energy efficiency, the Ai Group supported measures in its 2020 post pandemic policy such as fuel switching and gas efficiency while in 2021 CEO Innes Willox advocated to policymakers for a big federal push on energy efficiency.

Positioning on Energy Transition: Ai Group appears to advocated mixed positions on the energy mix. In 2020, Ai Group advocated to ‘accelerate successful energy transitions’ in the wake of COVID-19, offering support for investment into battery storage and infrastructure to and the electrification of transport. Ai Group has also communicated support for a ‘technology-neutral’ approach to energy policy in its 2019 federal election statement. For example, in a press release from May 2020, Ai Group has supported shifting the remit of both the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) away from renewable energy specifically towards be technology-neutral, facilitating fossil fuel related investment. In its NSW Pre-Budget Statement from May 2019, Ai Group advocated for the approval of the Narrabri Coal Seam Gas project and additionally, in a press release from June 2019, supported the development of the Adani Carmichael coal mine. In March 2021, the association appeared to support a gas-fired recovery for Australia after the Covid-19 pandemic, although in its submission to National Gas Infrastructure Plan in March 2021 it appeared to recognize that fossil gas use must be reduced, but suggests that it supports the role fossil gas has to play in the near/medium term. However, in October 2021, the group's CEO Innes Willox appeared to call for policy that would help develop low, zero and negative emissions' technology, with reference to the transition.

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