After a summer of weather extremes, of unprecedented fires, of dangerous floods and hailstorms, and air quality levels that had us gasping for clean air, Australia has renewed its focus on the risks that climate change presents for the country.
At the same time independent MPs, led by Zali Steggall (who took a climate agenda to the 2019 election, and ousted Tony Abbott from his seat), have launched a campaign to generate bipartisan support for action on climate change.
The campaign has proposed a private members’ bill be debated by Parliament in March. The independents are calling for MP’s to have a conscience vote on the bill.
Essentially the Bill is looking to reset Australia’s climate debate. If passed it would establish;
- a long-term emissions reduction target (net-zero emissions by 2050)
- a framework for assessing our climate change risk, reducing our emissions, setting adaptation plans and monitoring and reporting.
- a Climate Change Commission to independently support these endeavours.
IIG supports this Bill. In this piece we outline why, and why we hope this will be a pivotal intervention in ending our exhausting, and unnecessary, climate wars.
This Time It Could Be Different
This summer we had clear evidence of the destruction climate change can wreck on our country – the physical, environmental and emotional impacts of which have scarred us permanently.
Australia is required to submit updates to our “Paris” commitments, ahead of the November UN COP (Conference of the Parties) meeting in Glasgow.
We are mid-election cycle, so politicians have some latitude.
The Bill Is Based On Successful Models In The Uk And Victoria
More than 20 countries have climate change legislation in place and five countries (Sweden, Scotland, the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand) have net-zero emissions targets for 2050.
The UK Climate Change Act is a leading example of what can be delivered. It was voted through with only five votes against it in 2008 and was itself born out of a private members bill in 2005.
In Victoria the Climate Change Act 2017 showed that Australian governments can deliver strong climate legislation, including the introduction of a legally binding net zero target by 2050, 5-year interim targets as well as requiring Adaptation Action Plans.
A Climate Bill Doesn’t Have To Be From The Left
In the UK the conservative Tory party has delivered action in line with the country’s Climate Act since 2010, despite it being a Labour-introduced policy in 2008. It’s resulted in massively reduced emissions and a reliance on coal for electricity production reducing to just 2% in 2019.
A Climate Bill Can Build The Long-Term Consensus
A climate change act can and should play a key role in setting a pathway that government, business and civic society can align with and understand. It can build cross party consensus on the direction of action, while allowing space for political debate on how to get there.
We believe the proposals under Zali Steggall’s Bill do that.
A Climate Bill Can Support Short And Medium Term Investment Opportunities
Across our economy we can innovate and transition to a low carbon economy, while demonstrating we can support highly skilled jobs and meaningful work. We can increase our economic resilience, increase supply chain opportunities and increase export opportunities beyond digging up rocks and putting them on boats.
The first new set of opportunities we see are;
- electricity (e.g. renewables generation, batteries and microgrids),
- regenerative agriculture (e.g. replenishing our soils and allowing flora and fauna to flourish),
- heavy industry, and potentially
- the nascent hydrogen economy, supported by our renewable energy advantages.
When there is certainty, Australians have shown an appetite for putting capital into climate action and reaping the rewards. At the individual and family level, more than two million households have invested rooftop solar, increasing their energy self-sufficiency, saving money, and delivering environmental benefits. At the institutional level, before national energy policy was weaponised, vast amounts of capital was invested in large-scale renewable energy infrastructure. That money is now being invested overseas.
Backing The Bill
We think the approach Zali Steggall and her independent colleagues are taking has significant merit. We can’t be sure how it will play out, with much resting on how both moderate Liberals and the Labor Party respond. But we are sure that Australia needs to have a more considered debate around climate action, and we support this campaign to provide the space to do this.
If you want to see stronger action on climate change we would encourage you to support the Bill and:
- Read more about Zali’s campaign and sign up to support it at Climate Act Now
- Lobby your MP – particularly in the seats of Kooyong, Higgins, Wentworth, Bennelong and Goldstein where the combination of the sitting MP accepting climate change and our investor base align – but also where you have a Labor MP whose support will be needed to bring the Bill to a vote. Again you can do this through Climate Act Now or more impactfully by directly emailing them your thoughts.
We’d also welcome your thoughts on how Australia can move through the current political malaise around climate policy. We will look to respond your comments and hope to publish some of them in future newsletters.