Senate debates

Monday, 9 August 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Climate Change

3:31 pm

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

I move:

The Leader of the Australian Greens in the Senate (Senator Waters) moved—That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice she asked today relating to climate change policy.

The IPCC report is due tonight. It will send the strongest alarm yet that this is the critical decade. The year 2030 is what counts, and delay is the new denial.

Australia's only remaining allies in global climate forums are Russia and Saudi Arabia, and our nation is locking in with petro-states because of the power, the influence, the donations and the job offers of coal and gas companies—the job offers to politicians once they leave this chamber. The US, the UK, the EU, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand have all lifted their 2030 targets in recent months, but the Morrison government is prioritising the profits of coal and gas donors over the safety and wellbeing of all Australians.

This isn't just about future generations anymore. The impacts of the climate crisis are being felt already—and were, in our bushfires the summer before last. Athens and the west coast of the US are now facing similar devastating and terrifying fires. Europe is flooding. The islands of the Torres Strait are already feeling saltwater incursions into their food-producing lands.

What the IPCC report tells us is that we are going to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming this decade unless we radically reduce pollution. The other half of the coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef will be non-existent under 1½ degrees. We know that we'll lose 90 per cent of global coral reefs under 1½ degrees and virtually all of them under a two-degrees scenario.

Of the world's countries, Australia is one of the most exposed to climate damage, and we have already warmed by 1.4 degrees. ABARES has just told us that climate change has already cost every Australian farmer $30,000 a year, on average, so far. And that is just the beginning, as droughts, floods and heatwaves wreak havoc on our continent.

Failure to lift our 2030 targets is criminal negligence. There is no longer any excuse. If we don't act this decade, we're putting our lives and our kids' lives directly at risk. The No. 1 priority for government is to keep people safe, and the Morrison government is roundly failing in that duty. What is most galling about this is that they are prioritising the coal and gas donors that the Australian tax office has described as systemic nonpayers of tax. They're prioritising that mob ahead of the lives and the safety of all Australians.

The IPCC report, due to be released tonight, will tell us what scientists have been telling us for some time, which is that action now matters much more than whatever we might pledge to do in 2050. That will be too late. There is nowhere left for Scott Morrison—or for the Labor Party, I might add—to hide. We need strong, science based 2030 targets.

Rebuilding our energy system and creating the physical and social infrastructure that we need to stop runaway global warming will require the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs right around this country. For every one coal or gas job in Australia, there are 16 jobs that require a stable climate, from agriculture to tourism to winemaking. Taking urgent action to address the climate crisis makes sense on every single measure—for our survival, for job creation and for the preservation of nature.

The government are so blinded by fossil fuel donations and the promises of lucrative jobs post-politics that they dish out $11 billion in fossil fuel subsidies to their coal, oil and gas donor mates. They have pathetic targets that aren't based on science, which they then use dodgy accounting to try to claim that they're meeting. They sell us all out. How many more scientific reports will this government ignore with impunity? Time is running out. We have one job here as this parliament; this government has one job: it is to keep people safe—and to act in the public interest. At the minute, the scientists are in the bin, and the government have got their hands out for more donations from the coal, oil and gas sector and they are imperilling us all.

'How dare you?' as Greta Thunberg famously said. How dare you risk our collective future for the sake of your own self-aggrandisement and your own self-enrichment? For heaven's sake, start putting the science at the centre of your decision-making. Please listen tonight at six o'clock when the IPCC delivers its strongest warning yet, and please change the course of your pathetic climate policy, or get out of the way and let other people like the Greens do the job. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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