Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Climate Change

7:40 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to address the chamber on the matter of COP24, or the Conference of the Parties, taking place in Poland this week. The COP is an annual conference, but, as we draw towards 2030, when we would cross over a number of critical tipping points, the conference is also an annual reminder of how little time we have to act. That is a very real possibility, unless we take serious action, and we're running out of time to take serious action. We're running out of time to take the kind of action that will ensure the long-term wellbeing of our children and our children's children. We're running out of time at precisely the same time as those opposite debate what size stick they'll take to the energy companies. It's a matter of complete insanity, quite frankly, that, as we stare down one of the most serious threats to our survival as a species, we're unable to convince those opposite that serious action needs to be taken, and needs to be taken immediately. We're a rich nation, and we can, and we must, do more.

As the Fijian President noted in statements overnight, we need to do roughly five times more than we're currently doing to cut emissions. That's why, without action on climate change, Prime Minister Morrison's Pacific pivot is meaningless. It's why comments by the L-plater environment minister about people from the Pacific being all about money are most unwelcome, and it's why we need to do more on climate change, if we're serious about such a pivot. That's why when we rank 21 out of 25 nations in a new league table on clean energy development at the COP, it's more than simply embarrassing. We are 21 out of 25. In a country with abundant sun and wind, we lag near the back of the pack on critical climate action while our neighbours, New Zealand, are at the head of the pack at No. 3.

What is holding us back? What is it that's preventing us from taking the action necessary to lead on clean technologies and emissions reduction? It's this government. While this government loves to talk about themselves and loves to be out there leaking against one another, it doesn't like to talk about what we're leaving those who come after us in the form of climate change. It doesn't like to talk about how we could be taking the action necessary to make sure our children and their children grow up in a cleaner Australia—in an Australia with a thriving renewable energy industry. Instead, all we've seen from this government is climate wars.

The purpose of the negotiations in Poland is to go beyond this and to take the tangible steps necessary to reach the aims set out in the Paris Agreement three years ago. Negotiators are working to achieve the Paris rulebook—the issues that set out how we achieve the goals of Paris. That's why, overnight, 45 countries signed the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration, which acknowledges the seriousness of the threat we face currently and the need to take action to build the workforce of tomorrow—a workforce equipped to transition to a low greenhouse gas economy.

While the signatories to the Just Transition Declaration included Japan, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, the Morrison government refused to sign. The Morrison government refused to sign a declaration that sets out a vision for Australian workers and for the workforce of the future. The government refused to sign something that has intergenerational quality at its core and puts forward a clear vision for the future. Unfortunately, this government has no vision for the future. While at COP24, Greta Thunberg spoke on a panel about her need to strike from school to demand more action on climate change, government ministers in Australia have spoken critically of the actions of children like Greta. They've been criticising young Australians for taking action on climate change when they won't, precisely as the rest of the world is looking at young people and learning from them. As Greta Thunberg said yesterday:

Nothing is happening so I guess I need to do something.

Nothing sums up the state of affairs with the Australian government better than that. We have a government that refuses to take any action on climate change altogether. The government can't hide behind coal any longer. It can't use the excuse that Australia is unique in its abundance of coal. In fact, the COP meeting this year is held in an old coalmining town in Poland. Yet, the Polish leader— (Time expired)

Senate adjourned at 19:45