Zali Steggall MP speaks about green building standards and mitigating climate change

15 February 2023


Fast action on climate change is one of the most effective ways of insulating households against rising costs of living. By 2030, Australian families could save $5,000 per year by replacing current cars with EVs, switching their natural gas heating systems to electric heat pumps and furnishing their electricity with solar from their rooftops. If this shift is embraced now, we could keep track of emissions trajectories in line with our commitment to the Paris Agreement. The largest portion of our domestic emissions comes from our households, some 42.2 per cent.

In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act dedicates a great proportion of the funding available to electrification of households and development of technology. We know that the EU is also working on similar legislation. Australia needs to match these commitments with government initiatives to bring down the cost of living, address climate change and drive economic growth through the transition. We have heard quite a few excuses and mitigating words, but we haven't seen that commitment. That's what needed because it takes time. Let's get real: there is a race on. The rest of the world is racing with the US around attracting investment and making sure they have that share and are involved in that process of electrifying households. We are simply going to be left behind if we stick with just the current policies. We must do this.

We know that there are emerging global supply chains that we need to be part of. If members of the government want to talk about the National Reconstruction Fund then that has to be part of the emerging global supply chains around electrifying households. When I asked the Prime Minister about this in question time a few weeks ago, he blustered that he won't mandate for households what they use. Let's be real: no-one is talking about mandating. We are talking about leadership and incentivising. To be clear, governments from both sides were already mandating households through building codes. They mandate a connection to gas. It costs great amounts for households to get off a gas connection. So let's be really clear to the Australian public about what is actually being mandated at the moment.

We know green building standards are desperately needed here. We know inefficient infrastructure accounts for a significant proportion of Australia's emissions. We need to improve building standards to maximise efficiency of household insulation and energy systems. State governments have started to step up to create a sustainable built environment. We know that 50 per cent of the building stock that we will have in 2050 will be built between now and 2050. So our building codes are incredibly relevant to the standard of household and residential stock we have by 2050. The other half of that building stock is existing now and so urgently needs retrofitting, and that is part of what we're urging the government to do. The ACT government is about to mandate that all new homes must meet minimum standards for roof insulation, and it has already passed legislation to prevent new homes being connected to gas. I urge other governments to follow suit. The lack of standardisation across all states is preventing substantial gains in reduction of our national emissions. We need to mandate improved thermal performance in all new homes as a national standard. That would be a highly effective way of creating a more sustainable urban environment.

We need to at least halve our emissions by 2030. Let's get real: the 43 per cent that was legislated by the government is a minimal political standard. If we want a hope of sticking to 1.5 degrees, we need to at least halve our emissions by 2030. To do that, we can electrify household appliances and machines and pair this with the production of clean electricity to power them, with a clear road map to emissions reduction and a safer climate.

Over time we know we can assist households with the absolutely rising costs of living through doing this. So, whilst we have this debate in the media and accusations towards the Reserve Bank, there is an action the government can take. You can take our policy that will reduce inflation and assist households with costs of living. We must electrify homes, and that is an investment of some $12 billion, but it will pay off. And we need to invest in storage. I'll be introducing a private member's bill to mandate a REST—a renewable energy storage target. Do you know that, if we provide batteries for one in five households that have rooftop solar, we will already achieve 30 per cent of our storage needs? So there are solutions, we can do it, but we do need political will from the government.