Australia backs law to speed carbon emission cuts
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Australia enshrined deeper cuts to carbon emissions in new legislation Thursday, aiming to shed its decade-long reputation as a fossil-fuel-addicted climate laggard.
Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted 89-55 in favour of a 43 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, on the path to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
It is expected to go to the Senate for final approval in September.
Heavily reliant on coal for its electricity and one of the world's top exporters of fossil fuels, Australia's centre-left Labor Party government came to power in May promising swifter action to curb global warming.
Australians hit by increasingly ferocious bushfires and floods voted in large numbers for climate-aware candidates at the last election, helping to oust the previous conservative coalition government.
"Passing this legislation sends a great message to the people of Australia that we are taking real action on climate change," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on the eve of the vote.
"The decade of inaction and denial is over," he said, declaring that Australia is now "out of the naughty corner" in international climate change forums.
Though Australia has already formally lodged its new 2030 carbon-cutting target with the UN, the government says legislation will provide certainty for business and encourage investment in a carbon-free future.
While the new targets are more ambitious than the previous government's planned 26-28 percent cut by 2030, the legislation has been criticised by the Australian Greens for not doing enough and for failing to ban new coal and gas projects.
Greens leader Adam Bandt agreed to back the bill in parliament but vowed to journalists ahead of the vote: "The fight to stop Labor opening new coal and gas mines continues".