Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Customs) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Excise) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-General) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009
The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme signals Australia’s arrival at a major intersection in its political, economic and social history. When approaching any major intersection, you need to know when to go, when to stop and when to proceed with caution. This is such an occasion. Decisions that are made in this place today will have far-reaching consequences for the future. To borrow a phrase from Lewis Carroll, it is curiouser and curiouser. Like Alice, our consciences, if not our suspicions, are aroused. In this instance, it is by the unseemly haste with which the government is pressing this legislation through the parliament. I know it will not take effect until 2011. The Copenhagen climate change conference does not meet for another six months, and the United States is still finalising the shape of its carbon trading scheme. The question remains, then: why is this complex and far-reaching legislation being rushed through parliament?
Australia’s contribution to world CO2 emissions is 1.4 per cent and, while Australia has a great contribution to make, there is no Australian solution to a global reduction in CO2; there is only a global solution in which we can be participants. The government has said it needs to give certainty to business, but this bill does not achieve that aim. Until Copenhagen, three possible outcomes rest on the table: reduce emissions by 25 per cent if there is a universal agreement; reduce them by 15 per cent if the agreed targets are between 510 and 540 parts of CO2 per million; or reduce them by five per cent against our 2000 emissions if there is no universal agreement and Australia must go it alone. The coalition offers bipartisan support for the carbon abatement targets. Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has revealed that the UN does not require countries to have legislation in place before the Copenhagen meeting. So why not wait until Copenhagen? Then Australian businesses can have greater certainty. To supplement the mandatory targets, the coalition would immediately set up a voluntary carbon scheme to take effect on 1 January 2010. This would provide real incentives to begin action on a wider front now. It will allow for credits over and above the targets agreed to in Copenhagen.
In a forum I organised in my electorate, ‘Our Patch, Our Planet’, it was abundantly clear that men, women and children wanted to participate in reducing their carbon footprint. Such a scheme would allow individuals to act and ensure the results count in the total global goal to reduce emissions. Further, the coalition will be vigorous in pursuing a clean energy revolution, making Australia a solar continent, building energy efficiency in commercial and domestic buildings, and improving the vast Australian landmass quality through revegetation, re-afforestation and increasing soil capacity. This further underpins our carbon reduction scheme domestically. Writing for the Monthly, Tim Flannery said:
The Government has been lulled into the belief that effective climate policy and an effective emissions trading scheme are one and the same thing. They are not … A falsely ambitious scheme has been developed.
As the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech to the House last night:
The legislation is distinguished by the fact that it has almost no supporters.
Views expressed across industry could be best summarised by the quote from Woodside’s managing director, Don Voelte, who said:
We clearly encourage the Government to continue to look at this, to get it right. It’s not right yet.
Personally, I am not a climate change sceptic or a denier. Having read widely and talked to scientists, I accept that while there are differing views about climate change, most vary not on the science but on the degree and speed of climate change. Taking the most modest calculations, there is a clear case for risk management. For many years biologists, geologists, physicists, oceanographers, astronomers, statisticians and other researchers have been studying and measuring in an effort to better understand the impact of CO2 on the earth and its climate. Across the sciences, they have arrived at similar conclusions: there is a threat to human life if we continue to emit at the current rates and above.
Personally, I feel the weight of responsibility to make an informed contribution to this debate and to steer away from the path of crude politics and scare campaigns. In a change of this magnitude, disruption and cost is inevitable; but to do nothing will extract a much higher price in human and in economic terms. I think this was a sentiment expressed earlier by the member for New England—that is, it is not an easy decision. But frankly, the time has come to debunk the theory that economic growth is wholly dependent on environmental degradation. We have the capacity to adapt and carve out a cleaner future in new enterprises and services and to be filled with a sense of the possible.
Restraining catastrophic global climate conditions calls for major changes in human behaviour, surpassed only by the need for new technological innovations. Encouragingly, both can be observed in rapidly escalating proportions. Amory Lovins, Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, provides a clue to achieving this by separating applied hope from theoretical hope when he says:
Applied hope comes from taking specific actions and making specific choices that create a world worth being hopeful about.
For the free market system to work, signals must be strong and resolute so as to drive best practice in energy efficiency and conservation and to build a renewable energy industry. Curbing the profligate use of energy is the responsibility of every individual, every corporate entity and of every government in every country on the globe. To establish and maintain confidence in a carbon reduction scheme, it must be soundly based. This bill has many flaws, and they need to be examined and addressed in detail. If we do anything less, we risk derailing a robust carbon reduction scheme in the future. In that respect, I stand in this place and strongly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.