House debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Climate Change

4:00 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

Last week the AMA declared a climate health emergency, and I would expect the member for Higgins, as a doctor, also to be concerned. The royal medical colleges have also done so. This week, fires have been raging across northern New South Wales and Queensland. According to emergency services they are unprecedented at this time of year. This was forewarned in April, when the fire brigade chief said we were woefully unprepared for worsening fire seasons due to climate change. Of course, this is all happening in line with decades of predictions and warnings from Australia's climate scientists.

The Reserve Bank have recognised the threat of climate change. They are now factoring a worsening climate into their modelling and decision-making when it comes to managing our economy. Our financial regulators, APRA and ASIC, have new guidelines on companies to report to shareholders on climate risk as it affects their businesses. Our Public Service and Defence Force chiefs have also been meeting for some time, planning for climate worst-case scenarios, which we are starting to see. All agree that Australia is especially vulnerable to climate change and that it is having and will have an increasingly devastating effect on Australia's economy, our health system, our national security and our food system.

The cost of adaptation is high. We are seeing this with the cost of droughts, fighting bushfires and increased demand on our hospitals and health services. It's not good enough to continue our current trajectory with weak targets, Kyoto loopholes, rising emissions and no plans to get to net zero emissions. We have had decades of missed opportunities and policy backflips.

This is an immediate and pressing crisis. Yet we have climate change deadlock in parliament. Labor's silence is deafening, and the coalition, beholden to its climate-denying right, is holding the whole country to ransom and continues to mislead the Australian public. Emissions are rising. Even our schoolchildren know that. The government argues we're doing enough. Come on—isn't it time to grow up and actually really do action? The public knows it.

In comparison, India will achieve its Paris target of 60 to 65 per cent renewables penetration a decade earlier than expected. In fact they have increased their 2022 renewable target by 53 gigawatts. India is also meeting its Paris commitment to increase its tree cover. It has already added almost a million hectares of forest. Let's turn to the UK. We've inherited the UK's political system. It has the same left-right divide, yet it has had bipartisanship on this issue for some time. The UK has had a climate change act since 2008 and a climate commission that effectively reports to parliament and provides a roadmap and plan to reach its nationally determined contribution. They are meeting it and reducing their emissions by almost three per cent per year. In fact, they agree that as a developed country it's their duty to show leadership and, in the spirit of fairness, commit to more reductions. They are on their way to legislating to a net zero target by 2050, and they represent only two per cent of emissions.

China, often quoted, is set to overachieve its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement. It met its 2020 pledge three years ahead of schedule. It will update its national contribution in light of this. For the seventh consecutive year, China has led the world in renewable energy investment, contributing to almost a third of global renewables investment in 2018, with US$91.2 billion. China is leading the world on electric vehicles purchased, with more than 1.1 million in 2018. That's 4.2 per cent of their vehicle market share, compared to Australia's 0.24 per cent. They have a plan and fully intend to rival Japanese manufacturing of electric vehicles.

As an international citizen, Australia should be leading the way. Unfortunately, we're far from that leadership. After a decade of false starts, we were close in 2018 to making an important step in addressing part of our climate change policy with a National Energy Guarantee, but that was scuttled despite bipartisan support from all states and all industry stakeholders. We need a national energy policy to be introduced. We need a renewed Renewable Energy Target. We need the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They are tasked to successfully promote and develop energy technologies and they need support and certainty. The sector is crying out for it.

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