House debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Ministerial Statements

Annual Climate Change Statement

5:41 pm

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is hard to remember that less than a year ago advocates for action on climate change, including Labor, had to warn the government of the time about the impacts of global warming. Students, the fire chiefs and business all had to warn the government on this issue, and they were met with tin ears. That the government of the day, the Liberal-National government, couldn't agree to act seriously on this issue has been a real stain on Australia's history. What a contrast that now we have a government that recognises reality.

We know that no Australian is spared from the impacts of climate change. In areas like mine—the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury—we know that we're on the front line of extreme weather events. The Hawkesbury River has always been vulnerable and is now even more vulnerable. The mountainside has always had fires, but we now see them at such extreme levels. We face disasters frequently in my community. There have been three natural disasters in the last three years. But what we see is that these disasters are becoming increasingly devastating, increasingly frequent and increasingly unnatural.

If the trends continue and no action is taken, the temperatures that we experienced during the 2019-2020 summer will be the norm by 2040. That's what we'll get as an average summer by 2040. By 2060, they'll be considered a good year. That is just totally untenable for my community, because it means that, for the 150,000-plus people who live in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, it really won't be a place where you can happily live. Our suburbs and villages, our towns and our farms would likely not be habitable.

Australia has wasted a decade in taking action, and now it's up to us, Labor, and it's urgent. Eight months ago, we were given a mandate by the Australian people to implement our climate change and energy policy, and since then we've acted. The minister's statement on 1 December last year, the Annual Climate Change Statement to parliament, was a very strong symbol of how we'll do it differently. I want to summarise some of the things that we have done in those eight months, but I notice I only have seven minutes left. There is no way I'll be able to get through everything that we have done in putting our climate plan into action, but let's see how we go.

We passed the Climate Change Bill, which was the first real climate change bill in a decade. It tasked the Climate Change Authority with providing advice and it legislated our targets—a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050. That was one of the first things we did. We then got endorsement from the Pacific Islands Forum leaders to take forward a bid to co-host the COP 29. We want to be on the world stage, working with the world and saying, 'Here's how we've done it. Let's share these ideas and let's all push each other to do more.'

Energy ministers from around the country, from each state and territory, put emissions reductions goals into the National Electricity Objective. We have opened up the dialogue with the states on how we do this across the country. We got agreement to the Australian Energy Market Operator's Integrated System Plan to upgrade our electricity grid. We introduced the priority gas market reforms package so that we can avoid shortfalls, because we want to do this in a way that supports businesses going forward. We want our businesses to keep thriving and we want people to transition.

We've made sure the Australian Renewable Energy Agency cannot invest in things like coal and gas. We should not have had to do that—it really should have had absolute bipartisan support—but we did. We're reforming the safeguard mechanism to reduce emissions from Australia's biggest emitters. Again, it would be terrific to see bipartisan support on that because it's essential to our way forward. We also have a review underway so we can have confidence in our carbon credit system.

We passed the electric car tax discount through the House of Representatives to make electric vehicles more affordable, and I saw today that there has been almost a doubling of the number of EVs in Australia in the past 12 months. We have Australia's first real national electric vehicle strategy; that's a 21st century thing that we could have had 20 years ago. We have limited the amount of sulphur in our petrol, saving millions in health related costs. This is all part of ensuring that we move towards renewables.

We have expanded the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme to support stronger energy efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code, another place where energy efficiency can be achieved, and that will help our climate. We've announced the first areas for offshore wind development in Australia to continue our path to becoming a renewable energy powerhouse. This is another opportunity that these changes give us. We've appointed an Australian Ambassador for Climate Change. We've delivered a $67 million package of reforms to modernise energy market regulation with the states and territories, and I congratulate the states and territories—of all colours—for working with us on these measures.

The Community Batteries for Household Solar Program is worth $224.3 million, and I'm very pleased to see that it is open for expressions of interest. My community will benefit in the first pilot round, with two of those community batteries—one in Hobartville, in the Hawkesbury, and one in the mountains, in East Blaxland. People in these areas have invested in rooftop solar panels but haven't been able to invest in their own solar battery, so this is a sensible way to allow communities to share in a piece of infrastructure. We'll provide the infrastructure, and they can pump their solar into it and pull it out when they need it. There will be opportunities for other communities to be involved; our first 400 community-scale batteries will support up to 100,000 Australian households.

There's also the $102 million for community solar banks. This will assist 25,000 Australians living in apartments, rentals and low-income households across Australia. It is hard for renters to get the same sorts of energy savings, especially those who want to do their bit to reduce emissions.

The government has also invested $63 million in dispatchable storage technology such as large-scale battery projects and $62.6 million for an energy efficiency grants program for small and medium-sized businesses to reduce energy use and to lower energy bills. I'd urge people to look into that. There's $83.8 million to develop and deploy First Nations community microgrid projects for remote communities. There's $5 million in successful grant applications for R&D for low-emissions feed supplements for grazing animals.

Australia has joined the Global Methane Pledge, and what that shows is we have a spread of projects here. We on this side recognise that no one sector is the answer and, while we want to see 82 per cent renewables in the electricity system, we know that we have to work across all the sectors. We have also, significantly, signed a partnership to jointly fund the critical Marinus Link transmission project—that's the one between Tassie and the mainland—recognising the power that Tasmania has in renewable energy. We have signed agreements to jointly fund Victorian offshore wind projects. We have tighter noxious emission standards for new trucks and buses, again, demonstrating it isn't just the energy sector; it is also the transport sector that we are helping and supporting through this process. We have introduced guaranteed minimum stock levels of traditional transport fuels because we know consumers have to be protected from major disruptions. This transition not only involves initiatives to take us further but also things to support business and individuals to help them transition through. We have fundamentally restored—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

6:08 pm

Photo of Kylea TinkKylea Tink (North Sydney, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Discussing the first Annual Climate Change Statement tabled during this 47th Parliament is a historic moment—one my community of North Sydney fought long and hard for. To have the advice which is being used by this government to inform its climate policy made publicly available for all to see is an important step in ensuring greater transparency and accountability in our legislative processes. Ultimately it will contribute to sound decision-making and faster action on climate change led by facts, not politics. I'm proud to say my community's advocacy played an integral role in enabling this transparency. On 4 August last year, on behalf of my North Sydney community, I moved a successful amendment to the climate change bills, to strengthen parliamentary transparency over advice provided to the government, by ensuring a copy of what is provided is not only published on the website but also officially tabled in the House. This may seem like such a simple, obvious amendment, but it fundamentally strengthened our democracy.

We have a steep road ahead of us. Strong ambition requires even stronger action, and I'm here today to reiterate my community's commitment to that action. Now is not the time to settle. It is the time to press on.

I acknowledge that 2021-22 was a landmark year in Australia's progress towards our climate goals. The legislating of net zero by 2050 and a stronger 2030 target are significant developments, as is commencing the implementation of the government's Powering Australia plan. I note the government's announcement of Australia's disaster recovery fund to contribute to national climate change risks and the creation of the first National Energy Transformation Partnership. I also note the government's commitment to fast-tracking offshore wind industry and renewable energy zones and accelerating Australia's renewable energy transformation.

I also want to acknowledge the gaps present in the government's response to the authority's advice. The advice is that Australia needs to address the practical barriers to success in supply chains, workforce capacity and project approval time lines. The advice is that Australia needs a long-term strategy for emissions reductions, a strategy that sets expectations for when, how and by how much emissions should be reduced across different sectors of the economy. The advice is that the government needs indicators in place for detailed sector-by-sector emissions reduction plans, not only in the electricity industry and carbon farming but in all newly extended targets for industrial facilities covered by the Safeguard Mechanism.

I specifically want to address the advice provided by the authority which calls for a radical shift in momentum towards decarbonisation. The advice itself says 'Australia will need to decarbonise at an average annual rate of 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year' to meet its climate goals, which is 'more than 40 per cent faster than it has since 2009'. It concerns me that, despite this advice, the government has not put a halt to new coal and gas extraction projects. Fossil fuel production in Australia is projected to grow through to 2030. How can this be consistent with the government's ambitions? Scientific evidence tells us that fossil fuels must stay in the ground for the world to remain within the bounds of irreversible global warming. Yet in Australia we seem intent on writing our own version of the truth.

Right now in New South Wales, Australian fossil fuel company Santos has federal and state approval to develop a new coal seam gas field on over 95,000 hectares of the Pilliga state forest and privately owned farmland south-west of Narrabri, which is in northern New South Wales. Pilliga Forest is recognised as one of the most important areas for biodiversity in eastern Australia. It is home to at least 300 native animal species and more than 900 plant species and is the largest remaining area of native forest west of the Great Dividing Range. Pilliga sits on top of the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest artesian water basins in the country. The multibillion-dollar Narrabri Gas Project includes the drilling of 850 gas wells and a gas pipeline which will run from Narrabri to Newcastle. Around each one of these 850 wells, a piece of land the size of a football field will be cleared. Liverpool Plains and Pilliga Gas Projects desperately need federal intervention, not approval.

If the government is serious about meeting Australia's ambitious climate targets with real action, projects like this cannot simply be given a green light without significant national scrutiny. The tabling of the first Annual Climate Change Statement is indeed a historic moment, but now is the time for embracing the independent advice and stepping up to the challenge of faster action on climate. Thank you.

6:13 pm

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Australians voted at the federal election last year to end a decade of denial and delay on climate change. In my electorate of Corangamite, which includes the Great Ocean Road, the Bellarine, the Surf Coast and parts of Geelong, people were fed up with government inaction on climate change—the most significant threat of our time. They were frustrated by a government which had 22 attempts at an energy plan but failed to land on any of them. People across our nation are rightly concerned about the state of the environment that their children, our children, will inherit. They worry about the changing weather patterns and the environmental damage they see in their communities across the nation and the globe. Climate change has moved from a theory to a prediction to a reality, and that's why it's crucial that we act decisively now, and that's precisely what the Albanese government has been doing. In a relatively short space of time, since being elected last May, we've hit the ground running. The Albanese government's climate change legislation passed through parliament last year. It enshrined in law an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. The government brought together business, industry, unions, farmers, and community and conservation groups, all of whom have asked the parliament to put Australia on the path to net-zero emissions. The legislation ensures accountability through an annual update to parliament by the climate change minister on the progress being made towards the target. It also empowers the Climate Change Authority to provide advice to government on future targets. This government is showing the world that Australia is open for business, with a stable investment environment to unleash billions of dollars of renewable energy investment and zero-emissions technology and the jobs that come with them.

As promised, the Albanese government is being open, accountable and transparent, having tabled its first annual statement on climate change, together with the accompanying advice of the independent Climate Change Authority. In contrast, the previous government left their projected emissions reductions by 2030 at only 30 per cent. The projections tabled by the minister show the actions and policies of the Albanese government have increased this projection to 40 per cent so far—that is, we've lifted the outlook by a third in the first six months of the Albanese government.

As the Climate Change Authority advice makes clear, to achieve this target we will need to achieve the same emissions reductions in the next seven to eight years that have been achieved in the past 18 years in total. Since 2009, Australia has decarbonised its economy at an average rate of 12 million tonnes of carbon a year. To achieve a 43 per cent reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050, this decarbonisation rate needs to be at least 17 million tonnes of carbon a year, a 40 per cent increase.

Increased dispatchable storage will also be essential. After 10 years during which four gigawatts of dispatchable generation left the grid and only one gigawatt of dispatchable capacity entered the market, we will need to install much, much more clean, dispatchable power in the coming seven to eight years. Of course, this all comes in the shade of the biggest energy crisis ever to face the modern world—bigger even than the oil crisis of the 1970s. Our long-term plan is to power our economy with the cheapest form of energy, renewable energy, and in turn to harness the economic opportunities which come with it. Currently, a third of Australia's emissions come from our electricity system. Over the next seven to eight years, we will need to transition our electricity system to 82 per cent renewables from the current base of around 30 per cent.

The most important thing we can do is to rewire our nation, because there will be no transition without effective transmission, and there will be the jobs that go with that. Our first budget allocated the necessary $20 billion of investment. Importantly, we've finalised agreements for the first projects. The Marinus Link, which has been talked about for years, is now going to be a reality. The two cables between Tasmania and the mainland will see the Apple Isle move from 100 per cent renewables to 200 per cent renewables. This is the equivalent in emissions reduction of taking one million cars off the road. Likewise, our investments in the link between Victoria and New South Wales, KerangLink, and the co-investment with the Victorian government in renewable energy zones and offshore wind are vital in our efforts.

In addition, the budget funded our commitment to 400 community batteries, and the program is underway. I'm pleased to say that one community battery will be installed in my electorate of Corangamite, in the Sands Estate in Torquay. It is a brilliant outcome, and I thank the people for their advocacy for that battery. I am looking forward to more submissions. Last year's budget also abolished the failed Underwriting New Generation Investments program and replaced it with a new program to help finance new renewable energy storage.

So we are doing a great deal. There is so much more that needs to be done. But we won't reduce emissions unless we reduce those of our top 200 industrial emitters. So we need to reform a safeguard mechanism which governs the emissions of our biggest industrial emitters. A process has begun to enable credits to be provided to large industrial facilities which come in under their safeguard mechanism baselines, incentivising them to innovate and adopt emissions reduction technology. Around 70 per cent of facilities are owned by companies committed to net zero. They account for over 80 per cent of safeguard facility emissions. It is essential that the reforms commence from 1 July this year. This is ambitious but achievable.

How we move around our country has a big impact on how we emit emissions. Our government inherited a situation in which just two per cent of car sales were electric. That's five times below the international average. Last year parliament passed our electric vehicle tax cut, cutting $9,000 a year from the cost of the tax and providing Australian business opportunities for a $50,000 electric vehicle bonus to employees. The budget also funded our Driving The Nation Fund for investments in cleaner and cheaper transport, including a national electric vehicle charging network to roll out a faster charging system, one that goes for 150 kilometres before you get your next charging on our highways. We have to work on that as well; we need more charging stations.

We're delivering solar banks to provide access to renewable energy to low-income families, and we're leading by transforming our own federal government to be net zero by 2030. We've also committed to practical actions in the land and agricultural sectors, driving abatement and incentives through carbon markets that have integrity and cut pollution.

We're also returning our country to full international engagement and leadership on climate. The Climate Change Authority recommends that the government begins work on a plan to guide the nation's efforts towards achieving net zero, which we agree with and will prepare. The authority also points out that while technology exists to meet our 2030 targets, there are significant labour market and supply chain challenges as every country around the world strives to meet their targets. Again, we agree.

Providing the trading and investment in clean energy and decarbonising our workforce was a major focus of our Jobs and Skills Summit last July. Our policy of 10,000 new energy apprentices, which we're implementing, is a great start, but we know more needs to be done.

Right around the country, Australians are living with the consequences of climate change right now, so we need a comprehensive plan for adaptation and climate risk assessment. Working closely with the states and territories that's exactly what we will do. Our regions have experienced some of the worst climate change impacts, and they also have the opportunity to be at the heart of our clean energy revolution. That's why regional Australia is at the core of our government's plan, to ensure Australia takes advantage of the economic opportunities that come with climate change action.

In tabling this report, the minister emphasised the costs of climate change that we are already facing. It will get worse. It's not too late though to avoid climate emergency, and it is our job to act with urgency. Australia truly needs a Labor government to ensure we become a renewable energy superpower.

6:23 pm

Photo of Allegra SpenderAllegra Spender (Wentworth, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

The first legislation I spoke on in this place was the Climate Change Bill 2022. This was a critical piece of legislation that enshrined our country's commitment to net zero by 2050 and helped to provide the kind of policy certainty that businesses across Australia need to invest for the future.

One of the most important provisions of this bill is the transparency required from government on the progress Australia is making towards its emission reduction targets, transparency measures that were significantly strengthened by amendments made to the bill by members of the crossbench. Today, I am pleased to see this transparency in action. The evidence is clear that this parliament, with an expanded crossbench in both houses, has already delivered much stronger climate action than the last and it has delivered on several areas that matter most to my community in Wentworth—in legislated climate targets, action on the fossil fuel price crisis and a commitment to the National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

While this statement shows that progress has been made in the last eight months, it also makes clear that the government's approach is insufficient to even meet its modest target of 43 per cent. Under the baseline scenario, which reflects policies actually implemented, we're only likely to see a 32 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. Even with the strong execution of current policies we will only see emissions reduced by 40 per cent, and in some areas like transport our emissions are still rising and not expected to fall below current levels for well over a decade. And so the first point to be made clear from the annual climate change statement is that the government must do more. And there are two golden opportunities in front of us, opportunities that could reduce our emissions and save Australian families money on their energy bills.

The first of these opportunities is to electrify Australian households and power them with the cheapest home energy in the world—rooftop solar. By switching out our expensive gas appliances for more efficient electrical alternatives, like heat pumps and electric stove tops, the average Australian household could cut its energy use in half. And if these appliances were powered by rooftop solar, with a back-up battery in the garage for when the sun isn't shining, the average house in Wentworth could go zero emissions and save more than $3,000 a year on their energy bills. Rewiring Australia estimate if we add that up across Australia's 10 million households, we could cut around 40 per cent of our emissions in the domestic economy and save more than $300 billion between now and 2035. That is good value for money and it's a real impact for real people.

As a CEO of Sydney Renewable Power Company, I've seen firsthand the massive positive impact that cheap rooftop solar can have on energy bills and emissions, and there are numerous examples across my community in Wentworth. Nick in Bondi electrified his home with solar and saw his power bills plummet as a result. The Holdsworth community centre in Woollahra has a solar array that means they now spend less on power bills and more on delivering services like child care, dementia support and NDIS advice to the people who need them most. But to seize this opportunity we need governments to make it easier for households to get off expensive gas, and we need it to make it easier for families to overcome the up-front cost of these technologies.

In supporting electrification we need to go beyond one-size-fits-all policy measures that work for detached houses in outer suburbs but don't provide meaningful support for those living in high-density inner-city areas like Wentworth. Because it's those people living in apartments—often young people, often renters, often those without much money to invest in upgrading their home—who have the most to gain from an electrification opportunity but are the least likely to be able to seize it because either they're reliant on their landlord to install solar or they're faced with a dizzying array of regulations when they try to get together a strata committee to make the change themselves.

That's a situation facing many people in my electorate of Wentworth, 60 per cent of whom live in apartments, more than half of whom are renters, and nearly 40 per cent of those are under 40. That same situation is facing nearly three million Australian households across the country who live in rental properties. So the government needs to be ambitious in pursuing electrification opportunities, and it needs to ensure it provides tailored support for people in apartments and rental properties.

If the government is serious about climate and if it is serious about reducing cost-of-living pressures, May's budget must be the time it seizes this electrification opportunity. The budget package must include direct incentives for households to electrify, either in formal concessionary finance or tax incentives. It must broaden the remit of its existing solar banks program so that strata managers and owners corporations can access zero interest loans to install shared solar behind the meter on apartment rooftops. And it must kick off a serious process of regulatory reform to break the barriers facing renters who can't access rooftop solar, including by developing a national regulatory framework to share the power bill savings between landlords, who pay the upfront costs of installation, and renters who live in the property.

Beyond household electrification, the government must also follow through on its commitment to design and implement an ambitious National Electric Vehicle Strategy. That means urgently legislating strong fuel-efficiency standards so that Australian consumers have access to a broad range of cheaper EVs, and it means putting its foot on the floor in ensuring there are EV-charging infrastructure. We need an estimated 130 of these fast chargers in Wentworth by 2030 so that we don't continue to see power cords strung across the pavements because people in apartments have nowhere to charge their vehicles.

The first annual climate change statement shows the progress the parliament has made so far, but it also shows that we have much more to do. Turbocharging household electrification, in particular the installation of solar on apartment buildings, is a key part of this, as is accelerating the rollout of EVs. But let's not forget: 43 per cent is an unambitious goal. As we look forward, the government also needs to get a climate target that is aligned with the science, and so I urge it to set a 75 per cent emissions reduction target by 2035. It's aligned with the Paris Agreement, it's backed by the Investor Group on Climate Change and it will enable us to unlock billions of dollars in capital for the transition to cleaner, cheaper renewable energy.

6:30 pm

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is a historic document. For the first time ever this parliament is taking climate change seriously, and I am so proud to be a part of it. It is time to stop arguing about climate change, to stop putting road blocks up to this country becoming a renewable energy superpower; otherwise, history is going to judge this parliament and the members in it as being part of the problem and not part of the solution.

The annual climate change statement and the measures that Minister Bowen has put in around that statement are a quantum leap forward for this parliament to speak positively about the solutions. We have a long way to go in this country, there is no doubt. But with goodwill and application from everyone, with members of this parliament choosing to work together for the good of the future and not take idealistic and road-blocking positions from either side of the debate—from the climate change deniers to those who would put the perfect before reality—we can actually achieve a better future, both in the protection of our planet and in the smart, well-paid rewarding jobs that we know can come from a manufacturing industry that focuses on renewables and renewable energy.

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

It being 6.30 pm the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 192(b). The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made in order of the day for the next sitting.