Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Bills

Climate Change Bill 2022, Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022; Second Reading

8:19 pm

David Shoebridge (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

So we finally get a climate change bill—the Climate Change Bill 2022—into this parliament, and there's only one reason why. At the last election, the mood for change, for climate action and integrity, was electric, and I stand here today as part of a proud 16-strong Greens team delivered as part of that movement for change at the last election.

In just the last two years, people have lived through the Black Summer bushfires, they've lived through repeated catastrophic floods and they're seeing the world suffering through the real impacts of the climate catastrophe in real time, all while we're at only 1.2 degrees or less of warming. Now, they are demanding action.

For too long we have had governments who let corporations dictate the speed of climate action. We've lost decades with policy drift and fossil fuel greed, failing to take opportunities for innovation and be forward thinking and invest in a safe and livable future. Unfortunately, in an economic and political system based on endless growth and the myth of limitless extraction and consumption, this will not happen without far greater leadership than this bill shows. Instead of leadership, instead of the action needed to map out that safe future, we get this bill, Labor's compromise bill, which you'd give 43 per cent if you had to give it a mark out of 100. This bill is striking for its failure to deliver on even Labor's 45 per cent target that it took to the election in 2019, let alone the 75 per cent reduction by 2030 that all the science is telling us we need. This is part of a compromise that we've seen from Labor. They're trying to have it both ways: to be making sounds and noise on climate while really delivering for the fossil fuel donors and the corporate interests that ruled this place in the last parliament.

The problem is: you can't compromise on climate. You can't compromise on physics or cut a political deal with a law of nature. A bill that seeks to compromise on climate can't be anything but a very modest starting point, the very first slow step on a much longer path that we need to be running down. On that path must be the refusal of the 114 new coal and gas proposals currently in the pipeline, and a commitment—rock solid and in law—that we will keep all coal and gas in the ground. Without decisive action on that, this bill will utterly fail to deliver even its very modest goals. You can't put out the fire when you're pouring petrol on it.

While we're debating this bill, as we've been watching this bill grind its way through parliament, the Independent Planning Commission in my home state of New South Wales has just approved an extension to the Mount Pleasant coalmine to extend its operations up until 2048, with a likely impact of something in the order of a billion tonnes of CO2. That mine will be pumping out coal and greenhouse gases for 18 years after this bill's 2030 target. You don't need to be a mathematician to recognise that pretending to take climate action by 2030 with this bill and simultaneously allowing the approval of a megamine to operate until 2048 are grossly inconsistent.

When the environment is being destroyed like this, the messages you hear come from activists, students and people who care about their future, their kids' future and their grandkids' future, but they also come powerfully from First Nations communities. I'd like to read the following words from a man I've worked with for many years: Scott Franks of the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua people. He sent this message this week about this appalling coalmine approval—just the one, but one of so many on Wonnarua lands, his family's lands, his lands, that he has been trying to protect.

He said this:

This mine has one of the largest concentrations of Aboriginal recorded sites on it in the Hunter Valley including a recorded mythological sight. The concentration of sites has not happened by chance but is the result of over 30 operational open cut coal mines in the Hunter Valley. Currently the coal mining operations in the Hunter Valley have had a significant impact on Wonnarua heritage and Wonnarua people have only 3% of our country left intact.

As Scott has told me on so many occasions about this mine and other mines, the idea that the conditions we see in this week's IPC, Independent Planning Commission, approval, talking about monitoring and mitigating the impacts on Aboriginal lands and monitoring greenhouse emissions—they're all gumph. The idea that any of that is a safeguard for land or water or culture or climate is plain preposterous. It's a joke, and we're calling it out for what it is.

Yes, let's pass this bill with the improvements that have been negotiated through the hard work of climate activists. I particularly pay tribute to our colleague Adam Bandt, our Greens leader, for the hard work he and his team did in negotiating improvements: putting in a genuine floor, putting in greater transparency, making the bill better. But we acknowledge that this is nowhere near where this parliament needs to be on climate. Let's do it, because it shows we can at least take one step away from the climate vandalism of the former coalition government. Let's take some strength from that, but then let's get on with the real work that's needed, and that's the work to permanently keep coal and gas in the ground.

At the request of Senator Whish-Wilson, I move:

At the end of the motion, add ", but the Senate:

(a) notes that in the time between this bill passing the House and being debated by the Senate, the Government has opened up 46,758 square kilometres of ocean acreages for new oil and gas exploration; and

(b) acknowledges the advice of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency, that to meet the Government's own target of net zero by 2050, no new coal, oil or gas infrastructure can be built."

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