We need to strengthen the safeguard mechanism to curb the Dirty Dozen.

Image: The Dirty Dozen. Climate Council

 “On a per person basis, Australia is the most polluting nation in the developed world – even before considering the impact of our globally significant fossil fuel exports.”

Meet the ‘Dirty Dozen’: Australia’s 12 biggest fossil fuel polluters– and our new campaign to name and shame them into making genuine cuts to their emissions this decade.

The Dirty Dozen (Chevron, Woodside, Anglo American, Santos, BHP, Glencore, Inpex, Shell Australia, ConocoPhillips, South32, Esso Australia and Centennial Coal) are responsible for almost 10% of Australia’s total national carbon emissions (1).

They’re making billions of dollars in profit at the expense of our planet, and your hip pocket, while most of them pay almost no income tax. Yes, you read that right – zip, nada, zilch (2).

We say: no more excuses, loopholes and special deals for a polluting industry putting profits above people and the planet.

It’s time for our leaders to step in. 

Right now, the Federal Government is updating a policy called the Safeguard Mechanism, which, if properly strengthened, could put a genuine limit on the carbon pollution spewing out from the nation’s largest fossil fuel emitters.

The Dirty Dozen want to keep on polluting as usual. But by working together, we can shine a spotlight on their dangerous, destructive and dishonest business models, and ensure the Federal Government forces them to pull their weight.

Here’s four ways to join the campaign and crack down on the Dirty Dozen: 

  1. Head to Climate Council website to read brand new Spotlight Files on the Dirty Dozen.

  2. Watch and share campaign video, highlighting all the ways the Dirty Dozen are putting profit ahead of people and planet.

  3. Sign the petition to Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King, urging her to crack down on the Dirty Dozen by strengthening the Safeguard Mechanism.

  4. Chip in a donation to take this campaign to new heights– right as the national conversation heats up.

Failure to properly strengthen the Safeguard Mechanism – either by setting weak emissions limits, or carving out unfair, special deals for fossil fuel corporations – means Australia would lock in dangerous extreme weather events for decades to come, and have little hope of making the deep cuts in emissions we need by 2030.

But if reformed the right way, the Safeguard Mechanism could secure the biggest cuts to industrial emissions ever achieved in Australia.

Can you help put the Dirty Dozen in the national spotlight by reading the files and joining the campaign for a stronger Safeguard Mechanism?


Avoiding the worst impacts of dangerous climate change means getting emissions down this decade. We can’t start to deal with the smoke, while the fire is still burning. 


Example: Chevron

Total income 2020-2021: $12.5 billion AUD
Company tax paid: $30.00 AUD
Emissions: 52.3 million tonnes CO2 since 2016 – equivalent to those of 3.44 million Australians in a year

A notorious tax avoider and polluter, global oil giant Chevron tops the list of fossil fuel polluters in Australia.

Chevron produces more emissions each year than every person in Darwin and Canberra combined, belching out 9.5 million tonnes of carbon in the past year alone.

Tax paid:

While Chevron pollutes with abandon, the corporation is getting rich off Australia’s resources – funnelling billions offshore and paying essentially nothing in company tax. Last year, Chevron made $12.5 billion in total revenue from selling Australia’s resources, but paid only $30 dollars in company tax. That’s an effective tax rate of 0.0000002%.

Emission reductions targets:

Chevron can’t be trusted to do its fair share on emissions reductions either. Take the company’s enormous $US54 billion Gorgon gas plant in WA. Chevron was given permission to build the project on the condition that it captured all the carbon dioxide it produced and bury at least 80 percent of it. Unfortunately, the corporation broke that commitment straight away.

Empty promises:

Despite promising carbon pollution from the project would be sequestered deep underground, Chevron didn’t even have the technology ready to capture this pollution when the corporation started extracting fossil gas in 2016. It didn’t start injecting CO2 into the underground reservoir until August 2019, after three straight years of unchecked emissions.

Since then, it has only captured around a third of the harmful CO2 emissions produced by the gas field. On top of this, Chevron is pumping out millions of tonnes of harmful CO2 each year from burning gas to power the whole operation.

The simple fact is Chevron’s ‘carbon capture’ technology doesn’t work. The company is dumping millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, exporting Australia’s gas for mind boggling profits, and avoiding paying its fair share of tax. Chevron can’t be trusted to cut its carbon pollution.


What is the Safeguard Mechanism? 

The Safeguard Mechanism is the most important climate policy you’ve probably never heard of. It covers Australia’s 215 biggest polluters, including a who’s who of fossil fuel companies and big miners – like Santos, BHP, Anglo Coal, Woodside, Chevron and Rio Tinto, and aims to set genuine emissions limits on the amount that these companies can pollute. This policy is a key part of the Labor Government’s plans to cut the harmful greenhouse emissions that are driving the climate crisis.

Why is the Safeguard Mechanism so important? 

Australia cannot meet our legislated emissions reductions targets and make real progress to reduce climate damage if we don’t get the Safeguard Mechanism right. The 215 big carbon polluters in the Safeguard Mechanism account for 28% of Australia’s total emissions, and must pull their weight and do their fair share of reducing national emissions. If they are allowed to do less,  Australian households, small businesses, and sectors including agriculture and manufacturing will be forced to do more.

Climate Council Submission

“We thank the Federal Government and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water for this opportunity to help strengthen the Safeguard Mechanism to enable dramatic emissions reductions this decade.

Our submission is based around three key principles for the reform of the Safeguard Mechanism. These are:

  1. To build confidence in the scheme, it must demonstrate the highest levels of integrity, transparency and accountability.
  2. To realise deep emissions reductions this decade and realise the scheme’s potential, baselines must be set to enable the highest possible ambition.
  3. To avoid locking in high emissions and to maintain social licence and political feasibility, the scheme must avoid placing any ceiling on future ambition.

Australia plays an outsized role in driving the global climate crisis. On a per person basis, we are the most polluting nation in the developed world – even before considering the impact of our globally significant fossil fuel exports. Reflecting the urgency of the global climate crisis and Australia’s role in it, the Climate Council recommends that Australia set its sights on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 75% below 2005 by 2030.

A reformed Safeguard Mechanism must not create any barriers to the Federal Government lifting its ambition in future years. When the Federal Government improves our Nationally Determined Contribution commitment through the Paris Agreement – as it will need to do in future – the emissions reduction effort to be delivered through this mechanism must increase in tandem.

Climate change is accelerating with deadly consequences for Australians through worsening extremes like floods, heatwaves and bushfires. To tackle this existential threat to Australia’s way of life, emissions must go down, so achieving absolute emissions reduction is the key measure of success for a reformed Safeguard Mechanism.

The facilities covered by the safeguard mechanism have played an outsized role in ensuring Australia’s emissions stay high in recent times. While reported emissions from most other sectors have either held steady or decreased, emissions from facilities covered by the safeguard mechanism have increased by around 25%. As Australians face a seemingly never-ending series of events linked to the climate crisis, it’s about time that these big polluters took steps to reduce their impact on Australian lives, livelihoods and the places we love.

The Safeguard Mechanism, in its current form, is not set up to deliver emissions reduction. While the scheme may have been enacted to avoid emissions increases from Australia’s largest emitters, the reality is that over the first five years of its operation emissions from covered facilities – our largest industrial emitters across all sectors, including coal and gas producers, manufacturing, mining and transport – have trended upward. At the same time, the annual quantity of Australian Carbon Credit Units surrendered under the scheme has gone backward. As such, while the scheme could play a valuable role in reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, realising this potential will be challenging. The recommendations provided in this Climate Council submission would turn the Safeguard Mechanism into a robust, credible and effective lever for strong emissions reduction, if implemented as a package.

Given the scale of the emissions reduction task facing Australia, we also urge the Federal Government to consider taking further steps alongside this reform process to encourage and incentivise genuine investment in clean technologies by Australia’s major industrial emitters. In particular, we encourage the Government to consider implementing a mechanism similar to the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006, which required major energy users to identify and evaluate practical opportunities to achieve energy efficiency. Running a scheme such as this alongside funding mechanisms available through the National Reconstruction Fund, the Powering the Regions Fund and other state and territory funding sources would provide practical support and incentives for major industrial emitters to invest in the genuine technology improvements which can drive down their emissions. Integrating these policy levers to create an emissions reduction clearing house would provide very substantial benefits to industry, positively bolstering the government’s use of direct regulatory levers through the Safeguard Mechanism. For more details, please refer to the Climate Council’s ‘PowerUp: 10 climate gamechangers’.

We look forward to engaging further with the Government, Department and Parliament through the process of redesigning the Safeguard Mechanism to make it a tool that drives Australia’s largest industrial facilities to decarbonise. The Safeguard Mechanism can help to ensure clean, resilient, future-proof industries employing Australians for generations to come, if we get it right.

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