Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP speaks on the damaging IPCC report for the Adjournment Debate

10 August, 2021


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its long-awaited report on the physical science basis of climate change. The science is in, and it's a red alarm for humanity. Over 230 scientists from around the world have set out in incredible detail the terrifying science of our warming earth. It is hurtling towards warming of 1.5 degrees, with estimates that we may reach crucial thresholds as early as 2030. Australia is vulnerable to fluctuations of climate. It's already warming at 1.4 degrees.

So what does that 1.5 degrees mean to us? This report sets out that, for every point of a degree of warming it worsens, consequences will follow. Climate change is not linear; it's exponential. As we reach 1.5 degrees and exceed it, we will experience worse climate extremes and get dangerously closer to triggering climate tipping points. In Australia, we will experience an even greater frequency of droughts, floods, fires, coastal erosion, torrential rains and storms. Every community will pay the price through lives lost, infrastructure destroyed and livelihoods devastated.

The report warns that events that were occurring only once in 100 years will occur every year by the end of the century. In fact, these events are happening now. It was evident in the Black Summer bushfires in 2019 and, similarly, the growing severity of the east-coast lows in New South Wales—something my community in Warringah knows very well. In the Northern Hemisphere this past summer, wildfires have devastated parts of Canada, and these parts should not burn. We've had fires in Greece and Turkey following record temperatures and severe drought. We've had heatwaves and people dying. We've had floods in Germany and Belgium wiping out entire villages.

In Warringah, survey after survey shows that climate change is the number one issue in every corner of my electorate. In every age group people are crying out for federal action on this issue. Yet the Prime Minister, in his survey of the electorate of Cook, does not include climate change or even the environment in general in his list of the top 10 issues people can select from to be concerned about. That should tell every Australian that he is not bothered to act on climate change.

In response to the IPCC report, the Prime Minister and the member for Hume have had the temerity to claim that the government is leading the way on climate change. But it's all spin and accounting trickery disguising inaction. Despite yesterday's news they are still reading from the same script, intent on misleading the Australian public. Worse still, the government is determined to take Australia backwards, subsidising the extension of fossil fuel use over a rapid transition to existing technologies.

At a time when the International Energy Agency is telling us there can be no more coal, gas or oil projects, the Morrison government is funding gas fracking in the Beetaloo Basin and spending billions of Australian taxpayer money on gas projects that the market won't touch. The Morrison gas obsession goes so far as to consider offshore drilling for oil and gas, with extraction off the coast from Sydney to Newcastle in an area called PEP 11. The Minister for the Environment is more interested in stopping the Great Barrier Reef from being listed as endangered and appealing a court judgement imposing a duty of care on her to protect children from climate change than actually protecting the environment and doing something about it. Surely the IPCC draws a line in the sand. This must stop.

There is hope and there are solutions, but it does require shifting away from the political weaponising of climate change that has gone on for far too long. I agree with the words that the Liberal New South Wales minister for the environment, Matt Kean, said today. 'We need a new brand of politics here. For too long the politics of division have held us back not only from taking action on climate change, but from being world leaders on doing so, and embracing our economic opportunity.' If the Prime Minister is not capable of showing that leadership, of embracing this moment, then he should step aside, and I call on someone from the coalition frontbench to step up to this task. We need to work together in the nation's interest. The member for Indi has proposed the Australian Local Power Agency Bill; I've proposed a climate change act. It is time we act on this challenge.