Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP introduces the Climate Change Bill into Parliament, seconded by Rebekha Sharkie MP

9 November, 2020


Climate change is the challenge of our time, and how we respond to it as a nation and global community will have a huge impact on our future.

We have seen in the US a nation divided by politics of lies and misrepresentation. I congratulate President-Elect Biden on his victory and look forward to his science-based approach to key issues. I welcome his commitment on climate change and the US rejoining the Paris Agreement.

Australia has already seen too many years of divisive politics around this issue. This parliament needs to unite behind a common goal, to keep our way of life and Australians safe. Facts and the truth matter on this important issue. There is no more room for spin and talking points. We are not going to meet and beat our emissions reduction targets. We are not on track to keeping global warming below two degrees.

So the world is acting and committing to net zero by 2050. Our major trading partners are committed and working together on the solutions. They will be at the forefront of technology developments and investment. Australia is not at the table. We are falling behind. We have our handbrake firmly on. Seventy per cent of our two-way trade is now covered by net zero targets in those jurisdictions. Australia faces the real threat of border carbon tariffs if we continue to fall behind the rest of the world.

So it is time this parliament passed legislation that sets into law a commitment to net zero by 2050. In doing so, Australia will have effective climate change laws in place, like the UK, Germany, France and New Zealand, to name a few. Net zero by 2050 is endorsed by our state and territory governments, businesses, peak bodies, civil society groups and our trading partners.

Over 80 per cent of Australians are worried about climate change impacts. There are so many reasons we need to pass this legislation and lock in a bipartisan, sensible legislative framework to net zero. We need to take the party politics out of addressing climate change. This issue is bigger than any one party. This goes to the heart of keeping Australians safe. The government failed terribly to hear the warnings and prepare for the horrendous bushfires last summer and we cannot let that happen again. Our success or failure as a nation to properly address climate change impacts and emissions reduction will be felt across every sector. A government that downplays the risks and urgency to act is a government that also fails to prepare Australia to build resilience and to adapt.

Australia is already feeling the impacts of global warming. As the recent natural disaster royal commission report showed, we are exposed to the worst of climate impacts, and these will become more severe over time. We must act decisively in the face of such a threat to our way of life, our health, our environment and our economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given the world a prelude to the widespread disruption that climate change will cause. The recent Deloitte study found that climate change will be 'like having a pandemic every year from 2050'. We stand to lose as much as $3.4 trillion, in economic damages, by 2070. But we can take the first step to avoid that legacy now, with this sensible legislation. Our business community want better policy and clarity on emissions reduction plans. They want to plan their transition and long-term investment strategies. Legislating a net zero target by 2050 with five-year emissions reduction budgets provides the policy certainty and a framework to the private sector. It focuses investment on low-emission technologies and accelerates the development and uptake of those new technologies. It then permits more and more ambitious five-yearly emission reduction budgets.

Our doctors and the AMA and the broad health sector all identify global warming as a major health threat. Having experienced this year the widespread disruption of COVID-19, we know that policy based on factual, scientific advice is the key to success.

This bill legislates for regular risk assessment, adaptation and resilience plans. We urgently need to better understand how the impacts of climate change will affect our way of life, our society, our environment and our economy, and we need to ensure a planned transition for all, as communities and workers will be more disrupted and impacted than others—regular risk assessment of where and how climate impacts are going to be felt from environmental impacts like heat, drought, extreme weather events, increased bushfires, water and food security to how it will impact employment sectors and our economy.

Our building sector and building codes need to address climate risks. Investment in building resilience is far more cost-effective than funding disaster recovery. The longer Australia waits to implement effective adaptation plans to emerging climate change impacts the more expensive it will become to do so.

This bill establishes the independent Climate Change Commission, which will report and advise on technology assessments. This is a collaborative effort. The bill adopts the government's annual low emissions technology statements to identify and fast-track existing and emerging low-emissions technologies. By transitioning to a net zero-emissions economy, Australia will benefit from the jobs, productivity and growth that will be created by new clean industries. We can protect our environment and our jobs, our way of life and our children's future.

Australia is uniquely positioned to prosper through this transition. We have the financial wealth and the human capacity. We have the scientific innovation. We have zero-emission energy resources and potential for soil regeneration and carbon sequestration. We are uniquely placed to take advantage of the boom that is coming. This bill will enable Australia to make an immediate, positive and nationally supported response to the risks, challenges and opportunities of climate change. I cede the rest of my time to the member for Mayo and I commend this bill to the House.