Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

4:40 pm

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

At the request of Senator Rice, I move:

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

The urgent need for the Morrison Government to announce science-based 2030 targets given that it has completely failed Australians on climate change, using up over 40% of Australia's carbon budget since 2013.

The Prime Minister is now vaguely talking about 2050, and Labor are talking about 2050. The science says that 2050 is too late. A report was released last week that says that actually what we do in the next 10 years is what counts. The critical decade is now. 2050 targets are very attractive for do-nothing governments, do-nothing oppositions and do-nothing businesses that don't want anything to be done in the critical decade. Having 2050 targets with no policies is just code for 'someone else's problem'. We need science based targets to be guiding our climate policies in this nation. Delay is the new denial.

The Climate Targets Panel report that I referred to, which was released last week, says that, to have a chance of staying within two degrees of warming, the government's 2030 targets need to be doubled. We need to halve the pollution that we had aspired to have by 2030 if we are to have a chance at keeping within two degrees. That report also clarifies that if we want to have a chance of keeping within 1½ degrees—which might actually save what's left of global coral reefs, lessen the burden on our farmers and our agricultural sectors and lessen the severity of the natural disasters that we've all been facing, which is what we should be aspiring to as a nation—in fact we need to reduce our pollution by 75 per cent by 2030. So this report's saying the government needs to double its targets to even have a chance of two degrees, but we need far stronger action on the climate crisis if we want to have a chance of saving the planet as we know it.

So the discussion about 2050 is over. The question is: what's the government going to do about its 2030 targets, and when on earth are we going to see a 2030 target from this flaccid opposition? They continue to bat away the question. It is not good enough. We need science based targets, and we need all parties to be guided by them. It should not be a question of politics; it should simply be us taking the advice from the experts. We have a small window.

President Biden's climate summit is coming up in April. We might not even get invited. We didn't get much of a guernsey last time, did we? This Prime Minister has absolutely no credibility on the global stage on climate, so we might not even be invited to President Biden's April climate summit. But, if we are, what's the Prime Minister going to do? Is he actually going to comply with what the science says? Is he going to increase that 2030 target? It is untenable for the government to continue to insist that these weak, pathetic targets, which we're not even on track to meet, are adequate, and it's untenable for the opposition to continue to ignore the need for 2030 targets and promise to tell us all at some point—who knows when?

That independent Climate Targets Panel did that work last week; the Climate Change Authority should be doing that work. They've updated those targets based on our global carbon budget. Net zero by 2050 isn't even what the science says anymore, so that's a bit of a problem for the Prime Minister and the Labor Party. The latest data says that in fact we need to have net zero by 2045, not 2050. In fact, for 1½ degrees, we need to be net zero by 2035.

The other very troubling finding from that report was that since this mob took government in 2013 we've used 40 per cent of our two-degree budget and 55 per cent of our 1½-degree budget. We cannot muck around any longer. We may or may not get an invite to that Biden climate summit, but the world is watching what we do. The Prime Minister sees risks; the Greens see opportunities, and we see consequences for continuing to ignore this problem.

The Liberals and Nationals will send Australian farmers bankrupt as the new climate dries land out along the coast and floods it in unbearable heat in the north. The only way we can avoid that future is with strong, science-based 2030 targets. We invite the Labor Party to say something about that and the government to double their ambition in that regard.


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