Monday, 16 November 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009 [No. 2]
I wish to speak today on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and cognate bills. The purpose of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is to establish an emissions trading scheme as part of a framework designed to reduce pollution caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The emissions trading scheme provides economic incentives for achieving a reduction in greenhouse gases. The objectives of the bill are to give effect to Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto protocol, to support the development of an effective global response to climate change and to take action to enable the reduction of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change is a fundamental issue today for us all. It needs to be recognised that change in climates around the world is occurring and that the impact of anthropogenic emissions has worsened the problem. In 2007 I was chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Science and Innovation and it brought down a report entitled Between a rock and a hard place: the science of geosequestration. The conclusion of this report, which I fully endorsed, was:
There is now compelling evidence that human activity is changing the global climate. The majority of scientists, and the community at large, agree that global action is needed, otherwise we risk reaching a point where it is too late to reverse the damage.
Not for the first time, while being in the majority on the committee, I was actually in a minority amongst the members of the government on that committee, four of whom took the view:
Climate change is a natural phenomenon that has always been with us, and always will be. Whether human activities are disturbing the climate in dangerous ways has yet to be proven. It is for this reason that we strongly disagree with the absolute statements and position taken in this review regarding AGW—
anthropogenic global warming—and the dissent continued:
… most of the public statements that promote the dangerous human warming scare are made from a position of ignorance …
As I said, I have not changed my mind, and I think my colleagues who expressed those sentiments then have not changed their minds over the years either.
In my view, while Australia remains a relatively minor emitter of greenhouse gases on a national basis, we are a very high emitter on a per capita basis and there is clear and compelling evidence for both Australia and the world to act now to prevent further worsening of the problem and to minimise its adverse effects. Climate change does present a significant threat to Australia, to our environment and to our prosperity. I believe that the Australian people want action taken on climate change and that tackling climate change is one of the most significant and difficult tasks currently confronting us.
The scenarios outlined by each of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Stern report and the Garnaut report underscore the importance of taking effective action. There is no single response to addressing climate change, but the introduction of an emission trading scheme is an important step in combating climate change and reducing the risks associated with it. There is a consensus amongst the international scientific community on the issue. There is a consensus that climate change is occurring and that there is a compelling link between it and an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. And there is a consensus that action must be taken to minimise the potential risks.
I recognise and acknowledge, as do many others, the science of climate change and that Australia is particularly vulnerable to its effects. The failure to take effective action on climate change will have adverse effects for our environment, our economy and our country as a whole. The risk is that the negative impacts on our environment will largely be permanent and irreversible, and that is a risk that should not be taken. I would like to quote a statement made by Rupert Murdoch some years ago which I think captures the essence of a sensible approach to climate change. Mr Murdoch said:
I am no scientist but … I do know how to assess a risk. Climate change poses clear catastrophic threats. We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can’t afford the risk of inaction.
I think that captures a sensible, non-dogmatic approach to the challenge of climate change and why we need to respond to it.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body investigating the impact of climate change, has progressively hardened its position on the relationship between anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the heating of the atmosphere. The implementation of a cap-and-trade scheme will enable entities to pay for additional emissions produced over and above the limit imposed by the government. The issuing of a price on carbon emissions provides an economic incentive for liable entities to make a concerted effort to reduce and to limit their emissions. This is significant, as it is estimated the scheme will initially cover entities that produce approximately 75 per cent of Australian greenhouse gas emissions. The response to climate change needs to be a global response, but it is essential that Australia makes its contribution to addressing world emissions by implementing an emissions trading scheme that will impose a price on carbon. We do need to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas pollution and provide certainty for individuals, households and business. We do need to act on climate change to minimise the future damage to our environment and its diversity.
There are particular impacts of climate change in Australia. The IPCC has identified key concerns in relation to Australia’s vulnerability to climate change impacts. The concerns include threats to ecosystem uniqueness, agricultural commodities and our terms of trade; droughts and floods; increased coastal and tropical exposure to climate hazards; and impacts on Indigenous people, our water supply, coral reefs and Australian alpine areas. The bottom line is that climate change represents a threat to some of the most unique elements of our nation and we should mount an emissions trading scheme as part of our response to it.
The coalition recognises the importance of an emissions trading scheme, which was an official policy of the coalition in the lead-up to the 2007 election. The coalition’s policy on an emissions trading scheme was developed in response to increasing public awareness and concern about both the environment generally and climate change specifically. In response to the increasing concerns of the public, the then government commissioned an inquiry in 2006 into the development of an emissions trading scheme in Australia. The report of that inquiry stated that it would be in Australia’s interests to develop a cap and trade scheme. In the 2007 election the official coalition policy stated:
To reduce domestic emissions at least economic cost, we will establish a world-class domestic emissions trading scheme in Australia (planned to commence in 2011). We are also committed to capturing the opportunities from being among the first movers on carbon trading in the Asia-Pacific region.
I supported the election policy and I continue to support the establishment of an emissions trading scheme as a means to reducing Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions. As we speak, amendments are being discussed, among senators and members of the opposition, to the bill that will go into the Senate. I hope that consensus can be reached when the bill is debated in the Senate. I support the introduction of an emissions trading scheme.