Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion to declare a climate emergency. The motion has been circulated.
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter—namely, a motion to provide that a motion to declare a climate emergency may be moved immediately and determined without amendment.
We are moving this motion today for this parliament to debate the declaration of a climate emergency, because across the Tasman Aotearoa New Zealand are today declaring a climate emergency in their parliament under a Labor government with a strong Greens presence, including a Greens climate minister. I quote Christiana Figueres, who this morning said, 'There is no other country that has as much renewable potential as Australia,' and that the world is waiting for a 'suicidal Australia' to reverse its position on climate change.
This is our opportunity to recognise that we are in an urgent climate emergency. This is our opportunity to be united in the Pacific, in our part of the world. Pacific small island nations have recently written to Australia—just yesterday, as my colleague asked about in question time yesterday to a very unsatisfactory response—to remind us that their homelands and cultures face devastation from climate change and that we must not continue to have the weakest pollution targets in the developed world.
Environmental collapse is unfolding right in front of our eyes and it's being driven by the profits of coal, oil and gas companies. Stopping a breakdown of the earth's delicate climate system is no longer about protecting future generations; it's happening now. Let's recap this year so far in Australia. This year started with megafires on a scale that we have never seen before. It was deep drought that made such devastating fires possible. Other parts of the country had hailstorms, toxic smoke covering cities and dust clouds swallowing up entire regional towns. We've just come out of an intense heatwave in springtime and now K'gari, or Fraser Island as it's known, is on fire, with a 1,000-year-old tree under threat and people being evacuated. The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed just yesterday that that we've had the hottest spring on record and the hottest November on record, and this is despite our first La Nina in nine years, which is supposed to keep temperatures lower than normal. The bureau has advised us that what we can expect in this La Nina summer are high flooding and the increased chance of cyclones. The last time a La Nina occurred was when the Brisbane River flooded in 2011, with much devastation caused to surrounding areas.
Global heating is now a direct and present threat to every aspect of the lives that we cherish and hold dear. We are in a climate emergency and we need to act quickly and forcefully, just as we have in other emergencies. The first responsibility of government is to keep its citizens safe from danger, but the government is pushing us further into trouble rather than keeping us safe. We cannot exceed two degrees of warming. But the Bureau of Meteorology has advised our parliament that the targets that this government has set for Australia have us on track for up to 4.4 degrees of warming in our children's lifetimes. We have 10 years to get this under control. The year 2050 means nothing if we don't halve pollution over this critical decade to 2030, and that's pure physics. As much as you like to think you can, you can't negotiate with physical sciences. Unless we rapidly change away from coal, oil and gas, life as we have always known it will cease to exist. Nothing will be left untouched.
We can have that future or we can have a future where, in the middle of a recession, which I note we are coming out of today, we are creating jobs directly by building abundant, clean, cheap, renewable energy to attract domestic manufacturing back onshore again. Our wind and our sun are our competitive advantage. High-speed rail, public transport networks, green steel, hydrogen, electric vehicle manufacturing—these are the areas where jobs can be created today. We can create tens of thousands of jobs across the country, rejuvenating landscapes, planting trees and restoring creek lines and rivers. We have all the technology, skills, capital and resources that we need to create this safe, abundant world, but we have to sideline the coal, oil and gas industries that have the major parties wrapped around their little tentacles.
We will get there, but we don't have a lot of time. That is why the government and the whole of society must recognise that we are in an emergency and take action at emergency speed. Now is our chance to join New Zealand, England, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada and, the biggest customer of our coal and gas, Japan. If we don't, Australia will remain increasingly isolated on the global stage, with our only allies being petrostates like Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. So, for Australia to hold its head up high, I commend this declaration to the Senate.
Before I call the next speaker, I will remind senators—and I granted you some latitude there, Senator Waters, your having moved the motion—that this is a motion to suspend standing orders. The occasional allusion to the procedural matter would be helpful for debate.
The Senate has an established order of business. There are many, many opportunities that exist during the day when senators are able to move motions. The government will never agree to this kind of tactic to try to disrupt the order of business when there are many other opportunities that are available to every senator in this chamber to make a point. I move:
That the question be now put.