Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017


Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading

12:41 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

Today Labor supports the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. As the chamber knows, this legislation continues the implementation of the Montreal protocol, which was made law in Australia during the Hawke government. Happily, it is considered one of the most successful global environment agreements. It sets a terrific example of what is possible when it comes to global agreement and is an agreement that the world should continue to learn from.

We know action needs to be taken on phasing out hydrofluorocarbons, as they are greenhouse gases that are some thousand times as powerful as carbon dioxide in their greenhouse effect. So, it is important that we are taking these actions today. Although hydrofluorocarbons make up only two per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, their contribution to our emissions has been increasing, because they have been used to replace other ozone-depleting chemicals that are being phased out under the Montreal protocol. This bill now means that Australia's phase down is consistent with the international HFC phase down under the protocol that was agreed in Kigali in October last year.

The phase down is being managed through the existing licence system under the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act, and import quota limits will be managed under the ozone act. The international agreement underpinning these changes is to phase down HFC imports by 85 per cent in developed countries starting in 2019 and ending in 2036. So, it is pleasing that Australia is well placed to meet and exceed the global phase down and will start one year earlier, in 2018, and with a limit that is 25 per cent below that of the Montreal protocol. It is terrific to see that industry has been moving in this direction and supports the earlier start and lower limit, and I and the Labor Party would like to commend them for their proactive work in this area.

As I said before, the protocol is regarded as one of the most successful environmental treaties. It has phased out over 99 per cent of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as CFCs, HFCs and halon. It certainly shows us what is possible, but it certainly also underscores, I think, the current chaos that exists in the coalition in terms of the current policy vacuum in dealing with greenhouse issues more generally. The government should not be trying to claim this as a key element of Australia's 2030 emissions target. Make no mistake, this is a good commitment, but Australia's climate policies are not sufficient to achieve even its current commitment to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030 on 2005 levels.

We know that the coalition government's Direct Action Plan has proven beyond any doubt to be an ineffective waste of taxpayers' money. As soon as we see something substantive on the table, like the Finkel review, we again see chaos and division reigning within the coalition. The government's own data shows that carbon pollution has been rising since the implementation of direct action. The government's own data projects emissions rising all the way to 2030, which is as far as these projections go. The government's data shows that the government will miss its target of 26 to 28 per cent pollution reduction by 2030 by a full 26 per cent. It shows that emissions in 2030 will effectively be the same as 2005, showing zero progress for those 25 years.

So we on this side think that if the government were serious about meeting their obligations under the Paris agreement, just as we were serious about them under the Montreal agreement, the government would have to strengthen their 2030 targets, as well as implement real policies to reduce emissions, especially in the electricity sector. If we accept the premise that it is important to tighten up our use of hydrofluorocarbons because of their intensive greenhouse effect then we also need to deal with the substantive issue of greenhouse emissions right across Australia, our economy and in the energy sector. As we know, the Paris agreement includes a ratchet mechanism that will see countries increase their pledges to meet the two-degree target. Current pledges under the Paris agreement are consistent with three to four degrees of warming, but the government are pretending that their 26 to 28 per cent targets are all they will have to do. They know this is not true, and they are ignoring this fact and misleading the Australian people.

Labor's target of 45 per cent by 2030 is consistent with what the Climate Change Authority has said is needed to reach the two-degree target. It seems unlikely that the Prime Minister has the will or the ability to stand up to the Right of his party to deliver the policy leadership we need to modernise our energy system. Again, we can see that the Montreal protocol stands. The importance of this issue is clearly being undermined by a lack of momentum in the coalition to deal with the substantive issues. We see China, New Zealand and Brazil and other countries all asking important questions about Australia's lack of climate and energy policy to meet our Paris agreement commitments. So, just as the government is refusing to give us answers in this place, it is also refusing to answer international concerns about the policy black hole that exists.

The Turnbull government also refuses to introduce policy to support renewable energy investment post 2020, which is crucial if we are to meet our Paris obligations. The current figures show that Australia's pollution rose by 0.8 per cent in the year to June 2016 and by almost 2.5 per cent since June 2014. The data also shows a shocking 16.2 per cent increase in annual electricity emissions in the last two years. Power bills and pollution will continue to rise as a direct result of Malcolm Turnbull and his government's decision.

Labor have a proud environmental record, and we support strong action on the protection of our climate and our environment, as well as global action on climate change. That is why we are pleased to support the legislation that is before us today, but, in doing so, we would like to make the point that taking action on HFCs in the absence of proper action on climate change will be a meaningless drop in the ocean.

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Pratt. Before I call the minister, a gentle reminder that, when referring to members in the other place, they should be referred to by their appropriate title.

12:49 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Pratt for her contribution to this debate and commend the bill to the Senate.

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the bill be now read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.