Senate debates

Monday, 7 December 2020

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

4:58 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The need for the Morrison Government to take to the upcoming global Climate Ambition Summit a pledge to increase its 2030 emissions reduction targets in line with the science, noting that the UK has announced a target of 68% emissions reduction by 2030.

Folk might not recall how pathetically weak Australia's targets are, if you can even call them targets—a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. In less 'jargonistic' terms, Australia is currently the highest per capita polluter on the planet. If, by some miracle or by the dodgy accounting tricks that I'll talk about in a minute, we meet those targets Australia will still be the highest per capita emitter on the planet. These targets are pathetic. They are not strong enough. They are not based on science. They are written by the fossil fuel industry that donates to this government and to the opposition. They are writing the death warrant for the Great Barrier Reef, for our agriculture sector and for so many lives and for so much human misery as natural disasters just increase.

The United Kingdom recently recommended that their targets be increased by 68 per cent. Their government actually listened to their scientific advisers and increased its 2030 target by that amount. When Prime Minister Boris Johnson is making more sense than your own Prime Minister, you know you're in trouble; it's the one thing on which we'd like Prime Minister Scott Morrison to listen to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But, as I mentioned, our two big political parties are completely in the pockets of the oil, coal and gas political donors, who also offer them very well-paid lobbyist jobs once they leave parliament. And I think all of Australia knows that.

The Bureau of Meteorology has some very sobering news. It says Australia is not on track to keep global warming to the two degrees that we signed up to as a citizen of this world; in fact, we're on track for 4.4 degrees of warming over our landmass. That's goodbye to the reef, that's goodbye to most of our productive agriculture and that's hello to an awful lot of devastation that is an entirely unnecessary, because we have the skills, the nous and the resources to transition to 100 per cent clean energy as soon as possible. But we're not seeing any of that from this government. On the reef, we just had the final warning bell sounded by the IUCN, with their three yearly World Heritage Outlook, which was released last week, now saying that the Great Barrier Reef is 'critical'. It is the strongest listing that can be given to a World Heritage site, but it's not surprising because we've lost 50 per cent of the coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef in five years with three severe bleaching episodes. We're meant to be heading into a La Nina, but there's concern that there will be yet another bleaching. This is the last warning that this government is going to get before UNESCO decides whether or not to list the reef as World Heritage in Danger. That would be factually accurate, but it would decimate the tourism industry.

What we need the government to do is to adopt strong 2030 emissions reductions targets. This is the critical decade, but today they want a pat on the back because they've said they're not going to cheat on their homework. They've said they're not going to use the Kyoto carryover credits and they expect some kind of praise, when it was five years ago that most other nations voluntarily said they wouldn't use their carryover credits and when Australia was in fact the only nation that in that initial climate agreement in Kyoto was allowed to increase its pollution. The only reason we have carryover credits is that we were allowed to pollute even more, when all of the rest of the world decided to tighten their belt. So I'm sorry but we're not going to praise the Prime Minister for saying that he won't use dodgy accounting to somehow meet our targets.

The other dodgy accounting point is that they're now trying to claim that they're on track to meet our targets, because again we're relying on a provision about land use that no other country is relying on. If you take out that dodgy accounting, Australia is in fact polluting more than we were in 2005, which is meant to be the baseline year that we're meant to be 26 to 28 per cent better than by the end of this decade. We are not on a good trajectory. This is a critical decade, and we need the government and the opposition to stop taking the dirty money from coal, oil and gas and start listening to the science bodies. Stop defunding the science bodies and actually adopt some climate targets that we can amply meet, that will generate more jobs, that will protect our reef and our way of life and that will set us up for future economic prosperity. Stop putting your own personal interests ahead of the nation's.


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