House debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2020


Climate Change

9:53 am

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Melbourne from moving the following motion immediately—That the House:

(1) declares an environment and climate emergency;

(2) recognises that:

(a) as signatories to the Paris Agreement, Australia must ensure a safe and stable climate system, which requires limiting global temperature rises to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius;

(b) the Bureau of Meteorology has advised this Parliament that under current targets, the world is on track for a temperature rise of 3.4 degrees, and that means up to 4.4 degrees of warming in Australia, making much of the country uninhabitable within our children's lifetimes; and

(c) today New Zealand will move to declare a climate emergency joining other countries including England, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada and Japan; and

(3) acknowledges that no aspect of Australia's economy, society and environment will be left untouched by a breakdown of the climate system and that the Government and the Parliament must take urgent action before 2030.

We are running out of time to stop the climate emergency, and every day counts. That is why this motion is so urgent and standing orders must be suspended. We are heading towards a cliff—at 200 kilometres an hour—and the government has no plan to stop us going over the edge. When the Australian population is at threat, when there is a threat to the safety and the livelihoods of our people and our country, parliament should drop everything to deal with it. That is why it is so urgent that we deal with this today.

The first duty of the government, as it often says, is to protect the Australian people. But we are failing to protect the Australian people against the imminent threats of the climate emergency, threats that are costing lives and livelihoods now and will do so much more in the future unless we take action very quickly. To explain why this is so urgent and why what is being done at the moment is not enough, we must understand what Australia has promised to do as part of the Paris Agreement and how that is failing.

The Paris Agreement, which is the global agreement that is meant to address the climate threat, says we've got to keep global warming at well below two degrees. The planet's already warmed by over a degree. Why is it important to keep global warming at less than two degrees? It's a bit like the human body. If the human body gets too hot, once it gets over a certain point, past a tipping point, you might not be able to predict exactly which organ is going to shut down, you might not be able to predict exactly how much damage there's going to be to the patient, but you know that after a certain point the effects may become uncontrollable and the patient may die, so you want to keep the human body well below a certain temperature and not let things get too hot. It's the same with the planet. The scientists have told us, 'Don't let the planet get hotter by more than two degrees or we might not be able to stop it and it may become an unstoppable chain reaction.' We are already at one degree.

What this parliament has been told by our own Bureau of Meteorology as well as by the world's scientists is that we are currently on track for the world to heat by over three degrees—3.4 degrees. We are going to miss the edge of the cliff and go over it, and we are going to do that during the lifetime of today's primary school students. Even worse—and this is why it is so urgent—is that the Bureau of Meteorology has told this parliament that the effects will be worse in Australia. They've said to us that we could hit 4.4 degrees of warming in Australia by the end of this century. That is what the government's targets are consistent with. They are consistent with a wipe-out of agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin. They are consistent with a planet where, during the lifetime of today's primary school students in Australia, Australia will only be inhabitable for a couple of million people. That is what we face if we go over the cliff edge.

To date, the government has refused to accept the truth. This motion calls on the government to tell the truth, to tell the truth that our current targets and the world's current targets are not enough. We may well meet and beat them but that won't be enough to stop us going over the edge. We must also suspend standing orders, because things are going to happen in the next few days that could help us pull back and not go over the edge of the climate cliff as the government is planning for us to do.

There is going to be a global summit, within the next 10 or so days, put together by countries including the UK, headed by a conservative government but where they understand we are all facing the climate fight of our lives, and we've got to act. At this summit of global climate ambition countries are being asked to come with pledges to do more in the next 10 or so years so that we avoid going over the climate cliff. If Australia declares a climate emergency today and joins the New Zealand parliament, which is also moving to declare a climate emergency today, we may well get a spot at that summit for global climate ambition and serve as a signal to the rest of the world that they need to act as well and that Australia has understood the significance of the fight that we are in. Then, of course, following that will be the summit that the new President of the United States, Joe Biden, is convening, where leaders of the world are being pulled together to say what they're going to do over the next 10 years. And then after that there is the global climate summit in Glasgow. But what we do over the next 10 days could help shape what the world does and whether we stay on this side of the climate cliff or whether we go over it, and that's why standing orders must be suspended and suspended today. Australia should join New Zealand and countries like England, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada and Japan in recognising the seriousness of the climate emergency, and that would help shift global momentum.

It is urgent because we are passing climate tipping points now. As we speak, scientists are extremely worried about a part of Antarctica melting at the rate now that they thought they might see in 20 years time, and, if that part of Antarctica goes, we are locking in multi-metre sea level rises during the lifetime of today's primary school students—just from that one thing alone. We cannot pass that tipping point, because then climate change will become an unstoppable chain reaction. So what happens now, on the watch of this government and this parliament, will determine whether my daughters and the kids of people in this parliament go into every summer holiday worried about how many people are going to die from bushfires and heatwaves and worried about how powerful the next cyclone that hits is going to be or whether they enjoy a safe climate—a safer climate than the one that we're determined give to them at the moment.

The government may well say, and I expect they will: 'Oh, look, this is just a statement. Why have a declaration of something?' Well, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you've got a problem, and at the moment the government doesn't admit we've got a problem. The government says: 'It's okay. We've made our contributions. We're meeting our Kyoto targets. It's all fine.' What they don't tell you when they beat their chests and say, 'We've met our Kyoto 2020 targets,' is that the 2020 targets allowed Australia to increase its pollution, the only country in the world that could increase its pollution. What a way to pat ourselves on the back! We were allowed to increase our pollution. The point is: even if we meet the targets that are set at the moment, that won't be enough to stop us going over the edge.

At the moment there seems to be no sense from the government that we are facing an emergency, so the parliament needs to tell the government that it is an emergency. In the past the government have declared a budget emergency; they told us that we had a budget emergency. We even had a strawberry emergency, and this whole parliament had to suspend its operations for a day to deal with that. If we can have a budget emergency and a strawberry emergency, we should be able to declare a climate emergency and declare it today. There's a simple statement of fact in this motion: it doesn't condemn the government; it just declares that we are in a climate emergency. You either accept that we are in a climate emergency and you accept the science or you don't. I urge the government to follow the lead, if they don't want to follow us, of Boris Johnson. Follow the conservatives in the United Kingdom, who declared a climate emergency in their parliament. Follow the rest of the world. Tell the truth so that we can then start to act on this crisis that we are facing.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

10:04 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. We must as a matter of utmost emergency suspend standing orders and deal with this motion because the earth and this country are indeed in the middle of a climate emergency, and the sooner we understand and acknowledge that and declare a climate emergency, the sooner we can all get off our collective backsides and do something about it. It's not that hard to declare a climate emergency. The New Zealand parliament is expected to today declare a climate emergency. Already England, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Japan and countless other jurisdictions around the world have declared a climate emergency.

How much more evidence do we need that we have a climate emergency? How can we so quickly forget the shocking bushfires of last summer? How can we ignore the fact that the Bureau of Meteorology has declared the November just finished to be the hottest November on record? How can we ignore what might be ahead of us in this summer—whether it be more bushfires or shocking storms or hurricanes or who knows what else? It is undeniable that we have a climate emergency. We have to listen to the experts. For example, the Australian Medical Association has warned that at 3.4 to 4.4 degrees of warming the consequences of climate change will be serious and both direct and indirect. Observe the projected health impacts, globally and in Australia. The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements warned that 'climate driven natural hazards are expected to become more frequent and intense'. Ninety atmospheric physicists, meteorologists and climate scientists from 40 countries have advised the world that this is the critical decade and that global emissions must be halved by 2030, or we risk spiralling into a chain reaction of natural disasters and feedback loops that will be beyond humanity's ability to control. We have to listen to the Bureau of Meteorology when they say 3.4 to 4.4 degrees of warming by the year 2100. That's only 80 years away. That will be in the lifetime of the children of members of this parliament and within the lifetime of people in primary school today. This is a real emergency. It's not something in the distant past; it's real and it's imminent.

After we've declared the climate emergency, we then need to get serious about dealing with it. This country has the know-how and resources to deal with it. We have an abundance of renewable energy resources. We have to use them. We have to put this country on a credible pathway to zero net carbon emissions and 100 per cent reliance on renewable energy—not by 2050, but by 2030. Yes, that's bold and ambitious. Some people would say it's impossible. But let's go for it. Let's set an example for the rest of the world. Let's show what one of the richest, brightest and most fortunate countries in the world can achieve when we put our minds to it and our shoulders to the wheel. We've got an abundance of energy: solar, wind, geothermal, wave, clean hydrogen, hydro, pumped hydro, emerging technologies and things we haven't even discovered yet because we haven't tried to discover them.

There is an urgent need to suspend standing orders to deal with this motion and for this parliament to debate and then declare a climate emergency. As I said in my opening remarks, we can then get off our collective backsides and do something about it. We can help to clean up this environment and we can help to address climate change, and we can be a global leader in this space. While we're at it, we can also be a leader in our region and help the countries in our region with increased foreign aid for them to deal with climate change and to prepare for the consequences of climate change. We've got to think about them as well, the people who live in the lowlands of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Pacific island microstates. They are all going to have a terrible time, within their lifetimes, because of the consequences of climate change. We have to be honest about climate change and stop kidding ourselves that, just because we think we only contribute 1.5 per cent of global emissions, it's not that big a deal for us. What about all our exported emissions—the captive emissions in our coal and our gas that we send to other countries—which, when they're all added up show that we're actually contributing some five per cent to global emissions? We are a major polluter. We have a moral obligation and an economic obligation to do something about it

I'm honoured to second the motion moved by the member for Melbourne. The government didn't give leave for this to be debated, but I urge them to get behind it now. Why not vote in support of this motion? Why not, today, declare a climate emergency? That's what a responsible government would do. That's what a government that is in tune with the will of the community would do. That's what we need. (Time expired)

10:08 am

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

We don't support this motion, because, when you get past the bluster, the tokenism, the positioning and the politics, when you get down to the facts, we are already taking strong action. We have strong targets, we have a clear plan and we have an exemplary track record, one that members in this place and, indeed, all Australians can be proud of. The truth is that those opposite and the Greens, who proposed this motion, would rather cover their ears than hear the facts. That's why I welcome the opportunity to talk to this motion.

Let me say at the outset that Australia is 100 per cent committed to the Paris Agreement and to strong and practical global action as a response to climate change. We are the government that signed up to the Paris Agreement. We welcome the United States to the Paris Agreement. We've adopted a 2030 target as our nationally determined contribution, which those opposite have walked away from. We are the government that have set out a clear plan to meet and beat that target, that are making investments that will enable us to meet and beat that target—and beyond. We are the government that remained committed throughout to the Kyoto protocol when others waivered. Canada quit, and their emissions are virtually unchanged since 2005 while we have reduced our emissions by 16.6 per cent. New Zealand refused to commit to a second Kyoto target, and their emissions have barely budged since 2005 as ours have come down by 16.6 per cent.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

These are the facts. They don't like them, but these are the facts. When we came to government in 2013 we faced a deficit. We had to get another reduction of 755 million tonnes to reach our 2020 target, which finished on 30 June. We have beaten that target by 459 million tonnes. That's almost a year's worth of emissions. A turnaround of over 1.2 billion tonnes—that's almost two years turnaround in terms of emissions over an eight-year period. That is an extraordinary outcome.

Those opposite won't tell the truth, that our emissions are coming down. They have come down. We have met and beaten our target. The member for Melbourne and those opposite have always said in the past that we can't do it without a carbon tax. When those opposite left government in 2013 they forecast that emissions this year would be 637 million tonnes. That was their forecast, with a carbon tax. We have just learnt that our emissions are 513 million tonnes—20 per cent lower. And we got rid of the carbon tax!

Outcomes matter. It's actions and outcomes that matter. That's what matters for atmospheric concentration, not motions to suspend standing orders—that's not what matters; it's not about tokenism. Between 2005 and 2018 we halved the emissions intensity in the economy. Australia's emissions fell faster than the OECD average, faster than Canada's, faster than New Zealand's, faster than Japan's and faster than the United States's. These are the facts. By 2018 emissions were 13 per cent lower than 2005 levels, and, as I said a moment ago, the latest data has us 16.6 per cent below that baseline. That's in line with Germany, who are at 15 per cent. They are doing pretty well but about the same—level pegging.

So why has Australia done so well? Well, it's partly about significant reductions in electricity and also about agriculture and land management. They've all played a role. In fact, emissions in the National Electricity Market came down 5.3 per cent in the last year. We as a country have invested $30 billion in renewable energy since 2017. We invested $9 billion last year; the Clean Energy Regulator tells us it will be about the same this year. We continue to deploy solar and wind 10 times faster than the global average. One in four Australian houses have solar on their roofs—the highest number in the world. We're a world-beater. We are faster than Europe, the United States, China or Japan. We are world-beaters. We on this side of the House understand that, and we know that that trend will continue.

We celebrate Australian achievement. We believe in this country. We believe in enterprise and, most of all, we believe in technology, not taxation. That's central to our comeback from COVID-19. That's central to bringing down emissions while maintaining a strong economy, while continuing to invest in the industries and jobs that support people in the suburbs and regional Australia and continuing to invest in the crucial manufacturing sector for this country—which those opposite and the member for Melbourne couldn't care less about. He couldn't care less about it because he doesn't have it in his electorate.

Australia's experience has shown that, when new technologies become commercially attractive versus their higher emitting alternatives, they will be adopted by small businesses, households and industry. That's what happens and that is our policy. That is our policy. Our Technology Investment Roadmap embodies that, with a focus on five priority technologies: hydrogen; soil carbon; carbon capture and storage, which, I might remind those opposite, Joe Biden has said they will double down on; low-carbon materials like steel and aluminium; and long duration energy storage. All of those technologies have clear targets which bring them to parity, which means they will be adopted by small businesses and industries alike.

We're putting serious funding behind that, with our Climate Solutions Package at $3½ billion, including our investment in Snowy 2.0 in the Climate Solutions Fund; $1.9 billion in the budget just past in new energy technologies; and $72 million in the Future Fuels Fund, focused on enabling Australians to make the choice to buy an electric vehicle when they want to buy an electric vehicle. It's their choice, not the government's, but we'll support them in making those choices. There is hydrogen hub funding of $70 million. What an extraordinary opportunity for Australia in hydrogen. We're backing it, just as we've backed Australia building industries throughout our time in government. For microgrids, there is an extra $53.6 million in the budget, on top of the $50 million we've already committed; this is about getting new technologies at the edge of the grid and the fringe of the grid. There is $50 million for carbon capture and storage because it is working: 58 projects around the world, almost half in the United States—the biggest one? It's here in Australia. There is $1.4 billion of baseline funding for ARENA. In total, we have $18 billion supporting investments in technologies, to get those technologies to parity and to deploy those technologies in a way which is going to strengthen the economy, not hurt it, as the member for Melbourne and those opposite would have it.

It's important in understanding why we oppose this motion what the alternative is—because, if it isn't technology, it has to be taxes. There are only two choices here. It's technology versus taxes. And we know how much the member for Melbourne loves a good tax. We know how much those opposite love a good tax. But we have laid out our plans clearly, and there are no taxes in that. There are no taxes in that.

I can only assume that those opposite are going to support this motion from the member for Melbourne. They don't have—or, at least, they haven't fessed up to—a 2030 target. This motion calls for 'urgent action before 2030'. What's their target? What's it going to be? The Greens support a 75 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030. What about those opposite? They can't make up their minds, but they are tying themselves to the Greens. In fact, we have Peter Jordan

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On a point of order, Member for Ballarat?

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

The member needs to address why the standing orders should not be suspended, and that's not what he's doing currently.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, that's a fair point of order. The minister to continue for four seconds.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

Four seconds?

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, the debate expires at 10.18, in three seconds. Actually, that's the time now. The debate has now concluded.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by the leader of the Greens be disagreed to.