Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Climate Change

12:40 pm

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

Thanks, Mr President. We'll come back to the procedural elements of your ruling another time. On this matter, the latest quarterly emissions data has just been released by the department this morning, and Australia's pollution is up two per cent in this quarter. These June quarter results are proof that, despite the short-term drop in emissions due to COVID that this government claimed as a great success, that was nothing but a road bump. It's a reminder that a global pandemic is not a climate policy. Today's report exposes that there is no structural change happening. We're driving off the climate cliff, with Liberals, Nationals and Labor pushing their feet on the accelerator heading into this election. In the approval pipeline, there are 116 new coal and gas projects that both parties want to see opened up. Yesterday Labor voted with the government to give $50 million to gas companies to start fracking the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory, against the wishes of First Nations owners. Last week they voted together again, to give millions more to coal and gas companies for carbon capture and storage. Meanwhile, there is no plan for transport pollution, no plan to help farmers reduce emissions, no plan for rolling out new renewables and no plan to stop the gridlock. There is expansion of methane-leaking coal and gas fields.

This is urgent. We have until the end of the decade to slash global pollution or we risk setting off an irreversible chain and we will be unable to stop the collapse of our climate system. Once that extreme-weather genie is out of the bottle, humans won't be able to put it back in. The science says that we need a 74 per cent reduction in emissions by the end of the decade, three times more than what the coalition has sentenced us to. Last month, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Albanese, said that he would respect the science when it comes to climate change. The Australian Greens will hold the opposition leader to those words when the opposition soon announce their climate targets. If you want to limit Australia to 1½ degrees of warming, which is what was just inserted into the Glasgow text, the science says that Australia's 2030 targets need to be 75 per cent. Any target that is a 2030 target that is less than 75 per cent is not science based.

In the two years since the 2019 election, the climate crisis has gotten worse, not better, so the opposition's targets need to be stronger and not weaker than they were at the last election. A 45 per cent reduction was once the barest minimum for two degrees of warming. Since the Climate Change Authority report in 2014, that's been revised up by the Climate Targets Panel to 50 per cent, but even a 50 per cent target would give us only a two-thirds chance of staying below two degrees. But two degrees is too high. The world recognised that at Glasgow, after they listened to the voices of Pacific islanders saying that their nations will not survive if warming reaches two degrees. The text of the Paris Agreement shifted in Glasgow. The goal is now 1½ degrees, and two degrees is not acceptable to the global community anymore.

We listen to medical scientists for our health advice. We listen to engineering science to build bridges and towers. We listen to aeronautical science, which delivers us safely around the world. We now have to listen to atmospheric science. If we don't let the science guide us through this critical decade, our generation will forever be known as the generation that handed down worse living conditions to those that followed us. That is not something that the Australian Greens will sit back and allow to happen.

Transforming our economy to create the jobs and the public infrastructure that we need to avert climate catastrophe is all upside. There's no downside—except, of course, for the coal and gas corporations that are plundering our planet and donating generously to both sides of parliament. Putting the Greens in the balance of power to kick out the Liberals and push the next government to go further and faster on the climate emergency will mean that our next parliament has to listen to voters and climate science, not fossil fuel donors. It is long past time that the coal and gas companies stopped writing this nation's climate policies. That is a dodgy pay-off for the donations that they make to both sides of politics.

If, as the opposition leader said last week, the opposition wants climate targets to be based on science, let's see some targets that are based on science. To stick with 1½ degrees, Australia's got to commit to a 75 per cent reduction by 2030. Otherwise, we are cooking the planet. We can create a tonne of jobs with renewable energy. We need science based targets, not coal donors running the show. (Time expired)


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