Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Rice today relating to climate change policy.
My question was about what a circus our climate and energy policy currently is, in the light of the circus that the leadership chaos in the government is. I asked a question about whether we were meeting our Paris climate targets, and the answer I got back was an absolute failure to answer that question. Minister Cormann announced, quite boldly and blatantly, that, yes, we're on track to meet our Paris climate targets, in complete contrast to the evidence that is all around us, and in particular the evidence that I quoted to him this morning. This morning on ABC Radio National we had an eminent scientist, Dr Niklas Hohne, who studies carbon pollution right across the world. In particular he studies, as part of an independent group of scientists, whether particular countries are on track to meet their Paris targets. He stated unequivocally that Australia, on current policies, will miss its Paris targets by a wide margin. He stated unequivocally that, on current policies, we are going to exceed our carbon emission targets and that we need to have significant numbers of new policies being introduced if we are going to get our carbon pollution down to what we have committed to do in Paris—that is, to reduce it by 26 to 28 per cent. Meanwhile, Minister Cormann tells us blithely that, no, we're on track, when all the evidence points to the exact opposite.
We know that the National Energy Guarantee was going to be inadequate to meet our Paris targets, but the government has now abrogated even that and has stopped attempting to legislate for that 26 per cent cut in our electricity emissions. It's very clear that we're not going to be meeting the reduction in emissions that is required from our electricity sector. The government have abandoned that as a target. They're continuing just to encourage ongoing pollution, to be the coal huggers and to back in the coal industry. That's what the government's policy is with regard to electricity emissions.
When it comes to transport emissions, the Department of the Environment and Energy stated quite clearly in their submission to the Senate Select Committee on Electric Vehicles, and reinforced it in the evidence that they gave to the select committee last week, that our transport emissions are actually forecast to increase by 15 per cent by 2030. That's on top of having increased by over 50 per cent since 1990. The transport sector is now our second largest source of emissions, and it's the fastest growing source of emissions.
Clearly, the government have failed and have no plans whatsoever to slash our pollution from the electricity sector and the transport sector. They are completely bereft. Under the current government policies, our carbon pollution is going to rise and rise and rise, and that has dire implications. As Niklas Hohne said on Radio National this morning, the countries that are responsible for two-thirds of the world's emissions have actually legislated for their reduction in pollution, and they are on track. So Australia is being a total laggard. Australia is being totally irresponsible. Australia is not being a team player. We are not playing our part in doing what's necessary to prevent climate change, and that is going to have massive implications for us.
We have bushfires in New South Wales in August, in the middle of winter. We are in one of the worst droughts of Australian history—and, as a cattle farmer was quoted as saying in The Australian Financial Review last week, 'Don't you talk about drought unless you are also willing to talk about climate change.' We have the death of the Great Barrier Reef. We have our precious animals at risk. We have people's lives at risk due to increasing heatwaves. We are one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to feeling the impacts of climate change, yet we have completely abrogated our responsibility to do anything to reduce pollution. This government stands defeated in that.
Question agreed to.