Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 August 2021


Climate Change

12:02 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I seek leave to move a motion relating to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Leave not granted.

Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Wong moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may be moved immediately and have precedence over all other business until determined.

We in this place have been here when the IPCC reported. I was the climate minister when the IPCC reported. The report we have now received—this parliament, the government and countries across the world—demonstrates the extent to which we have to take urgent action. It is a race. The earth is hotter than it has been for 100,000 years. We are just years away from an average 1.5 degrees of global warming—a point at which human security, health and livelihoods are imperilled. This is what was reported overnight by the scientists. This is what we are already seeing. For the world and for Australia this is an emergency.

It has long been predicted. As I predicted on the basis of the advice given to me over a decade ago when we sat on that side, Australia is feeling the brunt of it. Our land areas have already warmed by 1.5 degrees on average, heat extremes have increased, cold extremes have decreased and scientists have a high degree of confidence that these trends will get worse. This is why we ought to debate this motion. We are seeing sea levels rising at higher rates than the global average. We are seeing snow cover and depth decreasing. We have seen fire like we have never seen it before. Extreme fire weather days have become more frequent and the fire season has become longer. What we are told is that the intensity, frequency and duration of fire weather events will increase throughout Australia. Of course, regrettably, as a continent that is one of the most affected on this earth, we will lurch from one extreme to another because destructive heavy rainfall and river floods will also increase. This is the compound effect of years of failure to curb emissions, to curb carbon pollution.

Those on the other side speak often about what we owe future generations, and I think all of us wonder what our children will say about this parliament. My daughter did an investigation project—I think that's what they call them these days—and she chose climate change. Her first question to me was: 'Is there anything we can do?' We have an obligation. For many years we have had this obligation and those opposite have refused to shoulder responsibility. For many years we have been in a race, and the race against climate change is a race we have to win. It is a race towards renewable energy. It is a race in which we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to jump ahead of the pack with renewable energy made by Australian workers with Australian technology—energy that could be exported to a world that needs it. As we have said so often, this is about the jobs for today and the jobs of the future, because if we invest in renewables we will create thousands of good-paying jobs in growing industries. We could make power cheaper and cleaner, but we have a government that never acts until it's too late. It's a government that misses every opportunity, a government who always says, 'It's not a race; it's not a competition.' Well, this is, and it is the emergency that so many speak of.

Finally, I would make this point: the only way, as has been demonstrated with the election of President Biden, that you will get an Australian nation that is willing to do something about climate is if you change the government. You have to change the government if you want to deal with this. Fine speeches and trying to have a go at everybody is not going to do it. We have to change the government if this country is actually going to do something about the climate emergency that we face. If our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme had been in place for the decade between 2010 and 2020, we would have emitted 161 million tonnes less into the atmosphere. That is the difference a government that is committed to climate change can make and that is why we have to change the government if we are going to actually ensure this country acts on climate. (Time expired)


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