Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP supports Andrew Wilkie's motion on climate change

26 October, 2020

Motion wording:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) 2019 was the hottest and driest year ever recorded in Australia, resulting in catastrophic bushfires, extensive coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and ever-increasing rates of extinction of our native flora and fauna;

(b) in the face of runaway climate change, and according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia is on track to warm by 4.4 degrees Celsius;

(c) the Government has just committed to new fossil fuel exploration and infrastructure which will lock in continued greenhouse gas emissions and global heating for years to come; and

(d) gas is a fossil fuel, not a transition fuel, while carbon capture and storage has a long history of absorbing taxpayers money for little benefit to the climate; and

(2) calls on the Government to:

(a) stop fossil fuel exploration and extraction of coal, oil and gas, including the Adani project and drilling off the New South Wales coast;

(b) end direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; and

(c) invest in large-scale renewable energy generation, storage and transmission through community-owned solar, wind, tidal, wave, hydro, geothermal and green hydrogen.


I thank the member for Clark for moving this motion, which I was proud to second. The member set out the facts in this motion. Climate change is the biggest challenge that we face as a society. Last summer's bushfires showed the worst of climate change impacts to date. 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 in lost economic output and $2.4 billion in insured losses, and three billion animals were wiped out. The fires left no person on the East Coast untouched. The issue is on top of my electorate and many others.

In the last years, there have been Warringah community surveys. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents said climate change or preservation of the environment was the issue that most concerned them. People in Warringah care about a safe and prosperous future for their environment, but they are not alone. Many other electorates care the same. There are dozens of initiatives in Warringah on climate happening at the moment, from early work on Warringah renewable energy zones through to Zero Emissions Sydney North going from house to house, helping people switch to solar. Unfortunately, it's not enough. Economists, like Professor Tom Kompas, are warning that, if we don't move faster and meet our Paris targets, the cumulative economic damage of not reaching those goals will be some $2.7 trillion over the next three decades. We must take the handbrake off and address the pandemic and climate crisis simultaneously.

Australia is in recession for the first time in 30 years. Sensible future-forward policies are what are required to lift us out and ensure our competitive advantages going forward. While so many other countries around the world are embracing those opportunities, our government seems determined to put the brakes on our transition and undermine our opportunity to be leading the world. Countries around the world, including the UK, Germany, France and the EU, have recognised that acting on climate change will lead to a jobs boom in electric vehicles, in energy efficiency and in renewables. China and Japan have recently joined the fray, announcing net zero targets. As our largest trading partners, these announcements will have significant ramifications for us. Many of these countries have also realised that the best way to leverage private investment and direct government policy is durable bipartisan climate change framework legislation, like the UK's Climate Change Act, which includes a net zero target by 2050.

If the government wants to attract private capital, and I know it does, it will support the climate change bill that I'll be introducing on 9 November to legislate a net zero by 2050 goal to attract that private investment. Modelling by Energetics, an investor group, on climate change released only a few days ago, found that a long-term framework and a net zero target by 2050 would attract over $64 billion in private investment by 2025 and over $375 billion by 2050. If the country keeps to its current targets and climate policies, investment worth some $43 billion would be lost over the next five years, growing to some $250 billion by 2050. In comparison—and in significant contrast—since the UK enacted their bill, they've grown and put people in jobs. They now have over 400,000 jobs in the clean industry sector, and low-carbon industries will have grown from about two per cent of UK GDP in 2015 to an estimated eight per cent of UK GDP by 2030 and 13 per cent by 2050. Acting on a green recovery and passing a climate change act would ensure a positive future.

In last year's survey, 77 per cent of people in Warringah said they wanted me to advocate on climate change legislation, so that is what I am doing by bringing forward the climate change bill, which will set a net zero target, do risk assessment and adaptation plans, establish new green technologies and establish an independent climate change commission.

This issue is not going away. To the contrary, it's only going to get more pressing. We can hear the political discourse constantly, but what we need is action. I would say to the Morrison government: do you want to be the Kodak government, the government that missed the opportunity to be at the front of the curve? It's time to act.