House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018


Climate Change

4:40 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

The () (): I wish there were more people in this place who had the vision and commitment of Molly Chapman, who lives in Kanahooka in my electorate and is a student at Dapto High School. Molly is a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and has regularly attended my youth leaders round table. Molly can see the effects of climate change and what needs to be done. She sees the bleaching and dying of our Great Barrier Reef. She sees extreme weather events and the impact of the recent drought.

What concerns Molly is that currently many public schools are getting most of their electricity from the grid, which, in New South Wales, relies 76 per cent on coal-fired power stations. While plenty of schools already have some sort of solar system installed, these are typically quite small. Molly has hundreds of signatures calling on the New South Wales government to install larger 100-kilowatt solar systems at each of the 519 public schools in the state. Together, New South Wales high schools could be generating a total of 72 gigawatt-hours of electricity every year if 100-kilowatt systems were installed. This is enough energy to power around 14,000 New South Wales homes. Around 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions would be saved every year. This is equal to taking around 13,000 cars off our roads. Molly wants politicians like us to stop talking and thinking short term and start standing to act on our global and national challenges.

The lack of policy on climate change in Australia is a failure of Australian politics. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report calls for drastic action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees of warming this century. The report was written by 91 climate experts and cites 6,000 peer-reviewed papers. Sadly, it has been dismissed by our government. The IPCC says countries need to make changes over and above those pledged in the Paris climate accord. Our Prime Minister, however, says we will meet our Paris agreement targets at a canter. Sadly, his department and Public Service agencies, in fact all scientists and the scientific evidence, disagree. Our efforts are far from adequate. We have abandoned evidence based policy, and bad politics has led to bad policy.

We have a real responsibility to protect our children, our grandchildren and our environment from dangerous levels of climate change. We have no choice but to get carbon pollution down. What is at stake is the loss of all of the world's coral reefs and other very important parts of our natural environment, threats to coastal communities through accelerated sea level rise and threats to human health through an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Each year we delay the cost of action and the risks of inaction keep rising.

It's hard to comprehend that a matter so serious, with so much potential for widespread catastrophe, has been treated so lightly. We know that, per head of population, Australians are the biggest producers of greenhouse gases in the OECD. We know we could be doing more—much more—yet we prevaricate. We are one of few advanced economies in the world where pollution is rising rather than coming down. The recent defeat of the NEG framework was just the latest in a string of defeats for Australian policy and politics on climate change. Looking back, I don't think anyone can forget the jubilation on the faces of those opposite, back in June 2014, when the Liberals' legislated to repeal the last realistic plan that this parliament has passed to reduce carbon pollution in this country.

Labor is committed to cutting our carbon pollution by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions by 2050, as is consistent with our obligations under the Paris accords to keep global warming below two degrees above preindustrial levels. We have no choice. For the sake of people like Molly, our children and our grandchildren, for the sake of our environment and for the sake of the Great Barrier Reef, we can afford to prevaricate no longer. Bad politics cannot continue to trump good policy.