03 August 2022
"This government is committed to taking more ambitious action on climate change. It is what we promised to the Australian people in the last election, and we haven't wasted any time since. Last month we updated our nationally determined contribution under the Paris agreement.This formalised Australia's international pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, reaffirming Australia's commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050."
Address to the House of Representatives, Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022
Wednesday 3 August 2022
I rise to support the Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022, and I'd like to recognise the fine contribution made by the member for Bass. When it comes to climate change policy in Australia over the last 10 years, it's been a disappointing story of division and years of missed opportunity. As someone who worked for more than a decade for a science and engineering organisation before coming to this place in 2018, these have been particularly frustrating times for me.
However, we now have the opportunity to end the climate wars and start addressing one of the great challenges this nation faces. There is no time to waste. The recent State of the environment report is a stark reminder of this. I have spoken with some of the passionate public servants who put this critical report together. It's a harrowing report that tells a story of crisis and decline in Australia's environment, with the pressures of climate change being a major contributing factor. The report explains that over the last five years at least 19 ecosystems have shown signs of collapse or near collapse. Marine heatwaves and ocean acidification are destroying our Great Barrier Reef, causing coral bleaching and threatening 150 reef species. Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent and has one of the highest rates of species decline in the developed world.
Many in my electorate of Bean understand this first hand. The 2019-20 bushfires that swept across Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve were one of the largest ecological disasters in the ACT's history. Here at Parliament House, our first occasion to wear masks was because of the air pollution from those fires. For a week we had the worst air quality across the world. As reported by CSIRO, climate change contributed to this catastrophic event. The impact of climate change has led to longer, more intense fire seasons and an increase in the number of elevated fire weather days. The year 2019 was the driest year since records began in 1900, and it was Australia's warmest year.
This government is committed to taking more ambitious action on climate change. It is what we promised to the Australian people in the last election, and we haven't wasted any time since. Last month we updated our nationally determined contribution under the Paris agreement. This formalised Australia's international pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, reaffirming Australia's commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. It also committed the government to providing an annual statement to parliament on progress towards these targets and restored Australia's Climate Change Authority as a source of independent policy advice.
The government co-hosted the Sydney Energy Forum with the International Energy Agency, supported by the Business Council of Australia. It brought together governments and the private sector to identify practical opportunities to transition to clean energy. This included clean energy technologies such as solar, hydrogen, critical minerals and batteries. Ministers from the US, Japan, India, Indonesia and Pacific islands among others attended, and Australia's new position on climate change was welcomed. A partnership agreement between the government and the US was signed at the forum, agreeing to accelerate work on a zero-emissions technology and promote economic growth. The forum demonstrated that Australia can transition through to a net-zero economy while also providing clean, affordable and secure energy to countries in our region for their own transitions.
At the Pacific Islands Forum, Prime Minister Albanese reassured our Pacific partners of Australia's strengthened commitment to combating climate change. It was also acknowledged as a primary economic and security challenge for our region and an existential threat to the island countries of the Pacific.
The minister for climate change recently signed regulations to strengthen the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ensuring it remains focused on renewables and electrification. Since the agency's establishment in 2012 under Labor, it has delivered $8 billion worth of value to the Australian economy.
Now, as one of our first acts in parliament, we are introducing our Climate Change Bill. This seeks to enshrine in law our nationally determined contribution of 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. This target is a floor, not a ceiling, and it has been backed in by representatives of business and unions, energy users and energy providers, farmers and conservationists. The bill will also explicitly task in law the Climate Change Authority to assess and publish progress against these targets and advise government on future targets, including the 2035 target. It will legislate a requirement for the minister for climate change to report annually to parliament on its progress. Legislating the target is international best practice. It creates much-needed certainty for business, investors and the wider community. It also will see Australia rejoin key trading partners in their ambition to 2030. For example, Canada has a target of 40 to 45 per cent; South Korea, 40 per cent; and Japan, 46 per cent. Most importantly, the 43 per cent target is backed by a plan. We know we can reach it because of the modelled impact of a comprehensive set of policies.
Australia has natural advantages when transitioning to renewables. We have an abundance of natural energy, including plenty of sun and wind resources across our magnificent landmass. We also have the skills and expertise to lead the transformation to renewable energy. This is an opportunity for us to jump ahead of the pack. Our plan has the potential to create more than 600,000 jobs and it will spur $76 billion worth of investment. The fastest way to combat the rising cost of energy is by getting more firm renewable energy into the system.
The current global energy crisis has emphasised the need for collaboration and to position energy security at the centre of the renewable energy transformation. As we saw in Australia, the combination of high fossil fuel prices and ageing coal power stations resulted in energy prices skyrocketing, leaving families struggling to pay their bills. We know the best way to get those prices down is to make it cheaper and more efficient to transmit energy, to get more cleaner and cheaper energy into the system. The AEMO underline this view, recently stating that Australia's energy future lies in firm renewables, which it says is clearly the cheapest reliable power option by a country mile.
Canberra's energy transition is a great example of what can be achieved. At a time when higher energy prices are trending across the country, electricity prices in Canberra are forecast to decrease by 1.25 per cent over the coming year. This is credited to the ACT's long-term renewable energy contracts, which more than offset the increase in wholesale electricity costs. Essentially, we are now a territory powered 100 per cent by renewable energy.
We can close the gap between the federal government and state and territory governments when it comes to investing in renewables that will power Australia. All states and territories, on both sides of politics, have expressed a real desire to work with us to get there and we will be working in collaboration with them to drive down emissions while ensuring secure, affordable energy.
Given the support we are seeing for our climate action plan from states and territories, the business community, unions, energy generators and energy users, we may be more successful and achieve greater emission reductions than forecast. That is why the target should be seen as a floor and not a ceiling. Furthermore, our nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement are built on ratcheting up aggregate and individual ambition over time. Nevertheless, we know with current projections that a 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 is what we can achieve with the comprehensive range of policies we took to the Australian public. These policies were endorsed at the last election.
This government is serious about climate change, as has been clearly demonstrated by what we have achieved in only two months in government and what we are set to achieve in our first sitting weeks in parliament. We can end the climate wars, move forward together and get on with the job of tackling one of the greatest challenges this nation has faced. We owe it to the families and communities we represent in this place. Marcus, Eamonn and Stella, this is for you.