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We must redouble our efforts to tackle climate change

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 10 Nov 2015

This government's climate denialism does my head in. The denialism is reflected in the pathetic pollution reduction targets, as just defended by Senator Birmingham. All the initiatives outlined by Senator Birmingham just do not add up to the level of commitment needed. The bottom line is that, even with all of these initiatives, we will continue in Australia to be the worst polluters in the world per head. This government's climate denialism is reflected by statements such as those by Senator Brandis in question time this afternoon, professing the government's love of coal. We cannot overestimate what the consequences of global warming of three or four degrees will be, and that is what these targets are consistent with. My colleague Senator Waters has outlined how inadequate these targets are and what the impacts of continued burning of coal, gas and oil are going to be.

It is not just the devastation of the natural environment; it is the economic and social impacts. If we think we have a refugee problem in the world now, think about when billions of people are going to be made homeless because they can no longer live and can no longer grow crops in river deltas around the world, in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Think of the people looking for a new home when water supplies dry up in India and Pakistan. Closer to home, think of how we are going to deal with the drying out of our rivers, and of the massive impacts that are already being felt on agriculture across the country. Think of the hundreds of thousands of people currently living around the coast in Australia who are going to have to move because of rises of metres of sea level. Right now, with just 0.85 degrees of warming, we have just had Australia's hottest month on record and the Victorian bushfire season has started dangerously early. Think of the deaths we are going to have to suffer because of heatwaves and completely unfightable bushfires.

The only way I can cope with thinking about this is to redouble my efforts to make sure it does not happen. We have to slash our carbon pollution globally to keep warming to under 1.5 degrees at the maximum, and if the science is saying that, to maintain a healthy and safe climate, we have to make even deeper cuts to our carbon pollution, then we are going to have to make that possible as well.

Unlike the fossil-fuel-loving members opposite, the Greens are facing the reality of global warming. We see it as an opportunity to transform our economy, our cities and our regions to create a healthier, more vibrant and thriving Australia. The good news, and what I want to focus on in my final two minutes, is that we have lots of low-hanging fruit that we can tackle to get us there, so that we can reshape our economy so that it is healthy, as well as safeguarding our future. If we had serious targets, then these initiatives would be planned and rolled out to help us meet them.

I want to focus on the opportunities of shifting our transport systems to zero carbon transport, because transport causes 16 per cent of Australia's carbon pollution, second only as a sector to electricity production. The shifts that we need to make to slash this pollution to zero would improve health and safety, improve our quality of life, clean up our cities, reduce congestion and provide better transport options in our regions. It means shifting how we get around—making many more trips by walking, cycling and public transport—and shifting to electric vehicles powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

Today I want to focus on those vehicle trips and the potential for electric vehicle manufacture, of cars, trucks and public transport vehicles and their components, because they contain amazing opportunities for Australia. Just this afternoon, I introduced a private member's bill which focuses on electric vehicles being the future, and which would expand the Automotive Transformation Scheme to provide a pathway for local auto manufacturing to shift to the technologies and jobs of the future, redirecting existing funding to encourage investment in the manufacture of electric and other non-fossil-fuel vehicles.

Companies like Nissan Casting in Dandenong, who want to expand their production of high-tech components for electric vehicles, are crying out for government support. There are companies like Brighsun, and I was privileged to be at the launch of their electric buses just 10 days ago in Melbourne; they want to establish their world headquarters in Melbourne and to manufacture electric buses that can go 1,000 kilometres on one charge. These are the sorts of initiatives that we should be embracing. We have the potential to have Australian-made components in every electric car built here and around the world. We can transform our economy and tackle global warming at the same time.

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