9 November, 2020
I've already introduced the climate change bill which puts into law, if passed, a net zero emissions target by 2050; legislates for climate risk assessment and adaptation, and resilience planning; and establishes regular technology readiness assessments and an independent climate change commission.
Independent Climate Change Commission
Underpinning the other elements of the climate change bill, is the establishment of an independent climate change commission.
This body is modelled on the successful and respected Climate Change Committee in the United Kingdom.
The Climate Change Committee has provided sound advice over the last decade, ensuring that the United Kingdom is on track with their Paris commitments.
We have already had the Climate Change Authority, but, unfortunately, over many years of partisan attacks it has been defunded and weakened. We need a trusted independent body that the government defers to and from which the public can receive clear, independent, expert based climate advice.
The Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2020 will repeal the Climate Change Authority and establish the Climate Change Commission.
Importantly, and as a point of difference to the authority, the membership of the commission will be selected by a bipartisan parliamentary committee and will reflect broad skills and requirements such as regional development, agriculture economics, financial investment, technology development, energy production and supply, industrial relations, an Indigenous voice, climate science and policy.
The commission will have a commissioner of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. This will ensure that Indigenous Australians are at the centre of this transition and will benefit from the many opportunities that come.
The commission does not usurp the role of government. Setting policies and delivering strategies will still be the role for the government.
But the commission is a trusted advisory body that will ensure that we are on the right track.
The commission will work with the government in a transparent and accountable way:
The commission will assess climate risks, new technologies, and provide advice on adaptation plans and emissions budgets that are fair and equitable across generations, across regions and across industries
The government will present plans and budgets to parliament, with reasons for any variation from the commission's recommendations, and
The commission will report annually on progress against Australia's emissions targets, technology goals and adaptation and emissions reduction plans.
The Australian people want clarity.
Climate risk disclosure
Financial organisations including Commonwealth entities like government agencies and departments are exposed to the risks of climate change impacts.
In an October 2019 financial stability report, the Reserve Bank of Australia observed 'climate change is exposing financial institutions and the financial system more broadly to risks that will rise over time if not addressed'.
Since 2017, the Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), led by Michael Bloomberg, has been leading voluntary climate reporting standardisation for private companies.
Companies around the world have recognised the value of climate disclosure. Benefits include more effective risk assessment, capital allocation and strategic planning. Banks, insurers, developers, miners and big business around the world have been rapidly incorporating climate disclosure in their annual reporting.
After a landmark opinion by Noel Hutley SC and Sebastian Hartford Davis, legal cases like the recent McVeigh v Rest Super and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission's and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority's guidance on climate risks, Australian companies must start disclosing material climate risks or be exposed to legal and regulatory actions.
According to APRA, 'A listed entity should disclose whether it has any material exposure to environmental or social risks and, if it does, how it manages or intends to manage those risks.'
But how can we ask the private sector to do this, but the public sector does not? Commonwealth entities are also exposed to those risks.
A recent legal action claiming that the government is not disclosing climate risks on Treasury bonds demonstrates this.
National governments have been successfully prosecuted in Ireland and the Netherlands for failing to adequately respond to climate related risks.
The federal government is exposed.
This bill will ensure that the accountable authority of a Commonwealth entity must consider, in the exercising of duties or powers, the potential risks of climate change and the potential contribution to Australia's emissions of greenhouse gases and broader impacts from those actions.
This bill will also establish reporting on material risks to those entities and disclosure of actions taken to mitigate those risks.
By providing for these considerations in this bill, there will be an alignment between the Commonwealth entities and the private sector.
As well, stakeholders including the community will have confidence that the government is managing its own climate risk.
The climate change bill and consequential transitional provisions provide for comprehensive climate action.
They ensure we have the plans in place to grasp the opportunities of a net zero transition, as well as mitigate the risks of climate impacts.
Just like we have come together in responding to the pandemic, I ask that all sensible members come together on this issue. This is the issue of our times, and we need to support this solution.
If members claim they are for climate action, this is their opportunity to come to the table. It's time to put partisan politics aside.
For our prosperity, our safety and our future, these bills are so important. I commend these bills to the House.