Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP presents a motion on the Climate Change Bill

19 October, 2020


I move:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) as a result of the 2019-20 bushfires more than 400 people died of smoke inhalation and over 4,000 people were hospitalised;

(b) the Australian Medical Association warns that global warming will lead to significant health impacts, including but not limited to, rise in respiratory illnesses, heat-related illnesses, cardiovascular disease mortality, asthma, spread of disease vectors, reduced labour productivity, food insecurity and under-nutrition, displacement, and mental ill-health;

(c) the interim report of the Royal Commission into Natural Disasters Arrangements states that further warming is inevitable and that Australia is likely to experience more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as floods, bushfires and drought;

(d) University of Melbourne modelling projects that if we fail to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, the Australian economy will suffer an estimated $2.7 trillion in cumulative damages over the next three decades; and

(e) that the 2019-20 bushfires resulted in an estimated $20 billion in lost economic output and over $2.4 billion in insured losses;

(2) further notes:

(a) Australia is in recession for the first time in 30 years;

(b) the effective unemployment rate is at 13.3 per cent and may remain over 10 per cent for the next several years;

(c) that young people will now face the dual challenges of climate change and the economic recovery from this pandemic, which will limit their quality of life and future employment;

(d) before COVID-19, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation estimated that limiting emissions to net zero by 2050, amongst other factors, could result in 2.75 to 2.8 per cent GDP growth annually—as opposed to 2.1 per cent under less ambitious scenarios;

(e) that acting on climate change will lead to a jobs boom in clean technologies like energy efficiency, manufacturing, renewable energy, and electric vehicles; and

(f) in order to unleash investment in clean technologies, investors need a bipartisan climate change framework and policy certainty;

(3) acknowledges:

(a) countries and jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Fiji and the State of Victoria have enacted framework climate change legislation;

(b) in the United Kingdom, there are now more than 396,000 jobs in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains with the low carbon economy growing at 11 per cent, per year—four times faster than the rest of the economy;

(c) framework climate change legislation supports reducing emissions, protecting against climate risks to health, and accelerates investment in a growth economy; and

(d) Australia has no Commonwealth framework climate change legislation; and

(4) calls on the Government to adopt framework climate change legislation.

As the facts set out in this motion establish, climate change is the biggest challenge that we face as a society. Last summer's bushfires showed us the worst of climate change's impacts. Over 400 people died, over 4,000 were admitted into hospital with respiratory illnesses and still more have mental scars from forced evacuations. Over 5,900 buildings and 18.6 million hectares were incinerated. There was an estimated $20 billion lost in economic output and $2.4 billion in insured losses. Three billion animals were wiped out. The fires left no person on the east coast untouched. Economists like Professor Tom Kompas are warning that, if we do not meet our Paris targets, the cumulative economic impact of damage to the Australian economy of these kinds of disasters and other factors will be $2.7 trillion over the next three decades. Others are warning that significant uncertainties about climate impacts over the next decade and a lack of planned measures for adaptation to these impacts will impede our economic recovery from this recession. We must address the pandemic and climate crisis simultaneously.

While some of the measures of the budget were great and will help, including the temporary full expensing measures, it was also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lower emissions and safeguard our jobs and communities from the disruptions that are coming. Australia is in a recession for the first time in 30 years. Sensible future forward policies are what is required to lift us out and ensure our competitive advantage going forward. While so many countries around the world are embracing opportunities, our government seems determined to put the brakes on our transition and undermine our opportunity to be a leader in the world. In the last few months, the government has offered to build a gas peaker, is attempting to change the CEFC mandate to underwrite gas projects, has directed funds to open up five new gas basins and has released over 100,000 square kilometres of gas exploration acreage.

The funds for ARENA and the CEFC, whilst welcome, are only about one-tenth of what is needed to transition to net zero. These are effective agencies that are essential in our transition to net zero. Some of the facts are staggering. Economically, since 2012, ARENA has supported 566 projects, with $1.63 billion in grant funding, unlocking a total investment of almost $6.69 billion. The CEFC has deployed $6 billion and has leveraged over $27.3 billion in private capital to support over 18,000 projects. Jeopardising these entities is going to put a brake on our recovery. Countries around the world like the UK, Germany, France, the European Union, are all recognising that acting on climate change will lead to a jobs boom in electric vehicles, energy efficiency and renewables. These countries have realised that the best way to leverage private investment is to set a climate change framework, to legislate net zero by 2050 and to provide policy certainty. That's why I'll be presenting the Climate Change Bill on 9 November, to offer that opportunity for Australia, for the Australian markets, to have that policy certainty.

Modelling by the Investor Group on Climate Change released recently shows that a long-term framework and a net zero target by 2050 will attract over $64 billion in private investment by 2025 and much, much more by 2050. We know that there is a global race on to attract private investment to ensure that we are future focused in our recovery. We need to stop putting the brakes on that with policies like a gas-focused recovery and actually embrace where we have advantage and where we have the opportunity. In the UK, where they have enacted a climate change bill establishing into legislation net zero by 2050, they have now seen over 400,000 jobs established in clean industry sectors. Low-carbon industries could grow from around two per cent of UK total output in 2015 to up to around eight per cent by 2030.

So it is clear that the case is there for why we should do it. The question is: do we actually have the motivation to get out of this recession and future proof our jobs and economy? There is no doubt that building more gas-fired power stations, in this talk of a gas-led recovery, will be poor economic management. The private sector knows this. There is a global race to attract investment and, if we continue with the government's current fixation, we will miss out.