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Greens move to declare a climate emergency

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
25 October 2019

 

Ms CATE FAEHRMANN (17:30:45): I move:

1. That this House notes that:

(a) the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, indicates that we are facing a climate emergency, and as a result, meaningful action on climate change is urgent, at home and internationally;

(b) this IPCC report has found that the world is not on track to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius;

(c) at a national level, England, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Canada have all declared a climate emergency;

(d) in Australia over 60 jurisdictions representing roughly six million people – quarter of the population – have declared a climate emergency, including the Australian Capital Territory Government, South Australia'upper House, City of Sydney Council and Local Government NSW;

(e) climate change is having a devastating impact on New South Wales with more extreme weather events including bushfires, floods, 99.5 percent of the State drought-declared and towns across regional New South Wales approaching day zero for water supply; and

(f) unmitigated climate change will lead to a steep increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events that will devastate large parts of New South Wales and radically impact food production, water availability, public health, infrastructure, the community and the financial system.

2. That this House declares an environment and climate emergency and calls on the Government to prepare a comprehensive plan of action to:

(a) urgently transition New South Wales to achieve net zero emissions by 2030;

(b) decarbonise our economy by phasing out thermal coal and gas;

(c) switch to 100 per cent renewable energy; and

(d) stop logging public native forests and end broadscale land clearing.

I am calling on this Chamber to finally accept the science and acknowledge that we are in the midst of a climate emergency. I know many members sitting across from me and even a few of those behind me tire of hearing about something that they fail to take seriously or perhaps do not accept as fact. I also know members on all sides of the Chamber cannot help but notice the growing state of panic that is beginning to take hold. Protest movements are growing around the world as people wake up to the fact that their governments are asleep at the wheel in the face of the greatest crisis our collective humanity has ever faced. Young people around the world are placing their hopes in a 16-year-old Swedish girl. Greta Thunberg is one of the few who has the courage to speak truth to power while political leaders say it is too hard to take the necessary action.

What those politicians are really saying is that it is too hard to stand up to the fossil fuel industry because the Labor, Liberal and Nationals parties profit from their huge donations and a revolving door that is spinning so fast it is hard to keep track of all the former MPs, staffers and other party hacks who walk through it. However, there are members on both sides of this Chamber who know that we are doing far from enough to deal with the climate emergency. The most recent United Nations report released ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit states that business as usual will see temperatures rise by 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Do members have any idea of the scale of unimaginable disasters that would bring? In order to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, a scenario that would still see massive social, economic and environmental upheavals, countries around the world would need to triple their emissions targets. Due to emissions continuing to rise past 2030, achieving the safe goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would require a rapid, global mobilisation unprecedented in human history. The Labor party likes to talk about the climate emergency and being strong on climate action but Labor has already indicated to me that it will amend my motion.

Opposition members cannot quite bring themselves to admit that to prevent runaway climate chaos we must phase out coal and gas and we must stop logging our native forests. We cannot tell the people of New South Wales that we are acting on the climate emergency unless we do this. Labor needs to support the motion moved by The Greens as is and work with the unions to urgently develop a transition plan for affected workers. It must have the courage to do this. Declaring a climate emergency does not mean closing every mine and shutting every plant tomorrow, but it does send a very strong message to those industries that their time has come and that we need to transform our society and economy into one that is clean, fair and sustainable.

I am sure the Government will boast about its stellar record on renewables and climate action, that it is striking the balance between growing the economy and taking action on climate, but it is not. At least some Government members know that. Our coal-fired power stations increased emissions by 550,000 tonnes to 50.3 million tonnes ofCO2 equivalent in 2018 and rampant land clearing and logging, which releases carbon into the atmosphere, is continuing and it is destroying precious carbon sinks. It continues to approve new coal projects and even changes the law so that coalmines cannot be stopped on the basis of their carbon emissions.

Members in this Chamber who are unlikely to be convinced by me should perhaps listen to many in the business community who are also begging for more action. Insurance companies are already losing money to extreme weather events and are pushing up premiums. In this motion I have set an aspirational goal of zero net emissions for New South Wales by 2030. This may sound extreme but years of inaction and rising emissions requires an emergency response. There can be no more business as usual.

If the Government can bring in emergency powers to build more dams, it can bring in emergency powers to rein in our carbon pollution and rapidly transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and net zero emissions by 2030. I am calling on all members who are not blinded by ideology or climate denialism, who acknowledge the science, and who truly understand the gravity of the situation that we are in, to support The Greens motion to declare a climate emergency and the comprehensive plan of action attached to it. Members must think about what they will tell their grandchildren when they are asked about how they responded when the world started to burn. I commend the motion to the House.

The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN (17:35:35): The Government's approach to the important issue of climate change is to take responsible and decisive action. We have a commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 as well as a range of programs that will help tackle our emissions. There is always a sensible debate to be had about what else can or should be done in any area of policy, including this one. That sensible debate is not helped by inflammatory language or scare tactics. The reality is that declaring a climate emergency will not remove a single molecule of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere nor stop the production of emissions. It will not get us any closer to achieving net zero emissions. Arguably, it moves us further away from responsible and decisive action. It scares and divides the population. It does not build community support.

We focus on practical action. Only today, the Minister for Transport and Roads announced that Sydney's bus fleet will move to electric or zero emission buses as part of the franchising of the remaining State-run services. This will improve air quality across our city and put a dent in our emissions profile of which transport is a significant contributor. That is the sort of practical action that this Government is focused on delivering on behalf of the people of New South Wales. The other significant contributor to our emissions is the energy sector but it is also an area of great opportunity. We have already seen the rollout of large- and small-scale renewable technologies because they make good business sense. This is driving change and the Government is working to progress that through fast-tracking four priority transmission projects.

Those projects form part of a suite of actions this Government is taking to ensure the stability and reliability of our energy system as part of the Transmission Infrastructure Strategy. The first two projects are upgrades to the existing Victoria and Queensland interconnectors that will deliver an additional 360 megawatts of energy capacity. The third is a new interconnector with South Australia that will deliver an additional 750 megawatts of energy capacity and a solar farm highway in our State's south-west. The fourth is new transmission to unlock existing and potential future energy supply from the Snowy Hydro Scheme. None of those initiatives required the declaration of an emergency. They are policies guided by sound decision‑making, science and economics. We will work with any member of this House who shares that commitment.

The Hon. MARK LATHAM (17:38:00): One Nation opposes this motion for the reason that there is no emergency. There is just a series of fake, hysterical claims. If there was an emergency, why would Bob Brown not want to have windmills next to his property if it was going to save the planet? Why is there not condemnation of Bob Brown for not accepting the emergency? It is so worrying to him that he said, "Do not build your renewables near me. We do not need those." If there is an emergency, why do we have to put up with so many fake claims? Bushfires are not caused by climate. They are caused by arsonists and lightning strikes.

Tim Flannery was consistently wrong in saying Sydney's dams would never fill again. They have filled many times since he said that. In 2008, Tim Flannery said that we had five years before the ice caps melted, but no such thing has happened. How many false claims can we take in this debate? They are so false that the only tactic they can rely on is pushing little kids forward to chant and march with placards and scream, "How dare you!" That is not an argument. That is not evidence. They are not facts. The facts show that since the beginning of the industrial revolution there has been a one degree warming or increase in global surface temperatures.

Over the past 20 years some of the claims that were made decades ago have not been substantiated and the jury is still out on where that is headed. It is a time for sensible, realistic policies. If there were an emergency one would think The Greens would accept nuclear power—emission free, reliable, able to be dispatched and safe power. The technology is there. It is worrying to The Greens that they cannot accept logical, realistic alternatives. This is not a climate emergency, it is a reality emergency. It is an intelligence emergency, an observable truth emergency where people want to use ideology and fake claims to try to scare the world about something that is not true. I have tested some of these things since I have been a member of this Parliament. I have asked the Minister for Energy and Environment about the evidence of rising sea levels, which is another cause of the hysteria. The Minister replied that in New South Wales the longest standing measurement of sea levels is at Fort Denison. Over a 125-year period they have risen by two-thirds of a millimetre.

The Greens cannot accept that evidence in their fact-free world. If we consider a metre increase in the sea level, on that rate it will take 200,000 years. I have got to break the news to The Greens: it is not an emergency. They can have their fantasy world with their pill-induced fantasies about what is really happening, but the truth is there is no emergency on any of the evidence. There is a need for sensible energy policies that keep the lights on and, where possible, take action. If The Greens support nuclear and recognise that renewables can only be supplementary they will go further to support their cause. At the moment hysteria and exaggerations due not convince anyone but damage the cause they purpose to support. [Time expired.]

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE (17:41:06): I partially support The Greens motion before the House. Labor does not need to be convinced that there is a climate emergency. The change in climate is fundamentally changing how the planet on which we live is operating. We can stand here and argue all we like but the reality is that science says that the changes are there. Anyone who pays any attention to the planet on which they live will know things have changed from the way they used to be. Labor believes that there is a climate emergency and it is fine and reasonable for this State Government in this jurisdiction to declare one.

We have signed up to the important Paris Agreement. A lot of discussion, science and negotiation has gone into finding a multi-partisan way to address climate change on this planet and that has been through the Paris Agreement, which Labor very much supports. Where the Opposition disagrees with The Greens in relation to this matter is their ongoing proscription for it. A couple of decades ago we had the opportunity to make a real change in the way that we deal with climate change and carbon pollution in this country, which had bipartisan support for a long time. Thanks to The Greens the torpedoing of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme set us back decades. Since then it has meant that the bipartisanship of Coalition governments in relation to the need to do something about climate change has been lost. The Coalition has lost leaders over this and we are still arguing whether it is real. The time for that argument is over.

Even if someone does not believe that climate change is real they should listen to insurance companies, businesses and organisations across the planet, many of which I would challenge on many different issues. They are planning for the future. They are doing the future modelling and they know that the climate is changing and that we need to change. I indicate to the House that Labor seeks to amend this motion. The motion that we are seeking to move is not to attack The Greens. In fact, it is exactly the same motion that the member for Ballina, Tamara Smith, moved in the Legislative Assembly, which Labor was happy to support this week. I move:

That the question be amended as follows:

1. In paragraph 1 omit all words after "this House" and insert instead:

"(a) declares an environment and climate emergency;

(b) recognises that:

(i) the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC],Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, indicates that we are facing a climate emergency, and as a result, meaningful action on climate change is urgent, at home and internationally;

(ii) this IPCC report has found that the world is not on track to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius;

(iii) Over 900 jurisdictions in 18 countries have declared a climate emergency, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Portugal, Ireland, Argentina and cities such as New York and Paris;

(iv) extreme weather events will devastate large parts of Australia and radically impact food production, water availability, public health, infrastructure, the community and the financial system.

(c) notes that the Government has acknowledged action is required to address climate change; and

(d) calls on the Government to take urgent action consistent with the internationally accepted science and Australia's obligation under the Paris Agreement."

2. Omit paragraph 2.

I urge members to support this amendment. It can build consensus across the Parliament rather than to continue to try to divide members. [Time expired.]

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (17:44:16): I will make a brief contribution to this debate. I was going to diligently provide a lot of facts until I listened to the Hon. Mark Latham when I realised that facts do not mean anything to a number of people in this Chamber. It is not the rhetoric, messaging or words on climate change that scares people. It is not schoolchildren being vocal about their fears for the their future that scares people. The fact climate change exists scares people. I am very happy that some members in this Chamber think that they have all the facts rather than the scientists. I understand there is an anti-science fad at the moment from those on the conservative side of politics. It is fascinating because if I got told that I had a life-threatening disease by one doctor and then spoke to 98 other doctors who all said the same thing, but then the 100th doctor I spoke to said that I was okay, I think I would still go with the 99 doctors who advised me to seek treatment.

If people do not want to listen to scientists and indulge the market ideology and neo-liberal economics then at least pay attention to the global financial markets. In London in 2010 I was working in an industry that totally accepted the facts of climate change. Insurance companies, re-insurance companies and global regulatory bodies imposed conditions on companies to disclose the risks that they faced from climate change. It was not something that was being debated. Those who have a financial stake see it for exactly what it is. This Government is continuing to be stubborn if it would prefer things continue as they are rather than face up to the fact that our society needs to radically change track. We are in a climate crisis. We need to act. We will keep on talking about it and the Hon. Mark Latham will keep being stubborn, but one day we will get there because we will have no choice. [Time expired.]

The Hon. MARK BUTTIGIEG (17:47:21): I was not going to speak in debate on this motion but I feel strongly about this issue. I have heard what my friends on the crossbenches have said. I agree with them on a lot of things—capital versus labour, the industrial issues—but they are somewhat too dismissive of this issue. This issue is urgent. It is happening and the science is in. The tragedy is that we could use this opportunity to stimulate our economy and create the new jobs of the future. The market has moved on because it realises that we are transitioning to a renewable economy. Companies are screaming out for government direction on this matter yet the inherent conservatism of those opposite continues to hold us back. We can have our cake and eat it too.

We would be there now if we had done this in 2007 when the impetus was there, Rudd was Prime Minister and we were not scuppered by petty politics. We need this Government to step up to the plate and proactively invest in renewables so that we can transition quicker than we otherwise would have to this new economy. It will happen whether we like it or not. The question is whether we get there quickly enough to avoid the catastrophes that have been outlined in this motion. The Labor amendment strikes a good policy between what The Greens have correctly pointed out is an emergency—we do not deny that—but we have signed up to international agreements on this matter.

What is the purpose of going to these forums, participating in the debate and agreeing to them, if governments do not follow through? Labor's amendment simply says, "Yes, we knowledge there is an emergency and we want to meet our obligations under those international agreements and we want to act." But, more importantly, what concerns me is the inherent conservatism of those in power who do not realise that we are dealing with the future of our country. We can create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Instead of having a fetish for surpluses, why not borrow a bit of money and invest in renewable technologies? Instead of telling coalminers that they do not have jobs, create the new jobs first, transition them, and then shut down the coalmines. We can do all those things but there is no imagination or ambition to do them. We have turned into a lowbrow, low‑ambition nation. The conservatism of members opposite is holding back the country.

Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE (17:50:22): I put on the record that I agree with the majority of scientists that there is no climate emergency on planet Earth. I also agree with the comments of the Hon. Mark Latham. I will not propose an amendment but the motion should be amended to refer to "climate hoax" instead of "climate emergency".

The Hon. ROSE JACKSON (17:51:00): As my colleague the Hon. Penny Sharpe has said, Labor supports the declaration of a climate emergency. If members do not like the language of "climate emergency", perhaps they might prefer "water emergency" or "drought emergency". Those phrases are regularly used and, in fact, speak to exactly the same environmental disaster we are facing. It is absolutely irrefutable that the devastation being experienced right now in New South Wales is exacerbated by climate change. When the millennium drought broke, we were told that it was a once in a generation event. That was less than 20 years ago and yet here we are back again. There is no doubt that the severity of the current drought is linked to climate change.

If members do not want to use the phrase "climate emergency", they can use "drought emergency" or "water emergency" or perhaps "heatwave emergency" or "bushfire emergency" because climate change is directly linked to the severity of the fires we are experiencing and the length of the bushfire season. The phrase "climate change" is used to describe our changing climate. Obviously it is not an inanimate object that literally starts fires but it is clear that changing climate is making our bushfires worse, more severe and more regular over the course of the year.

I agree with the Hon. Mark Latham on one point which is that we do not need hysterics because the facts are plain and speak for themselves. They do not need to be beefed up or made to sound worse than they are. A person can read the words and accept what they say about the direction in which our planet is going. I also agree with the honourable member when he said, as former leader of the Labor Party, and I quote from an article published in 2013:

The Labor Party will ignore adopting a progressive policy on climate change at its peril.

 … 

Labor has always been strongest when it has followed this technique: advancing a reform agenda but not getting too far ahead of public opinion.

The article notes that "Mr Latham says the party must 'lead the debate' on the issue" despite the fact that it had proved difficult "for prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard". That is absolutely right. I completely agree with him. What happened to the 2013 Mark Latham, let alone the 2004 Mark Latham? He is absolutely right when he says that is when Labor is at its best.

We do not need nuclear power. It is too expensive and too slow to come online and we do not have a good answer to the waste problem. New South Wales has a fantastic renewable energy industry that needs investment. The Government could be creating jobs in an exciting and dynamic and future‑focused renewable energy industry in this State if only it would get serious. The declaration of a climate emergency is a clear, concise and direct way that this House can show that we are serious about tackling climate change in this State.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE (17:54:00): I speak in support of the motion, as do my colleagues, Ms Abigail Boyd and Ms Cate Faehrmann. Climate emergency, record drought, water shortage, refugee crisis, global conflict, firestorm; these are the words we will have to get used to if we do not take action on climate change. If members are frightened by the words "climate emergency", they should think about the consequences of not acting and get used to being frightened by that because it is genuinely frightening.

The Government says it has the answers and it is getting the balance right. In a budget in the order of $80 billion, the Government did not allocate even a fraction of a fraction of one per cent spent to renewable energy. The amount of money allocated to renewable energy amounted to a rounding error. The Government says it has a plan to have net zero emissions by 2050. It has no plan at all—no transition plan, nothing in place. It has a target with no ideas behind it, let alone any commitment.

Some members in this place ask, "Where is the evidence?" The likes of the Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile make ridiculous assertions that the overwhelming majority of scientists do not agree with climate change. That is complete and utter nonsense.

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: It is true.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I note that bizarre interjection. Even the Pope is against you, Fred.

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: The Pope is not a scientist.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I acknowledge that interjection as well. Let us look at what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says. The records for just this year show that, globally, January was the third‑warmest January on record. Globally, February was the fifth-warmest February, March was the third‑warmest March, April was the second-warmest April and July was the hottest month ever on record.

Australia's records have been shattered as well. In Australia January's average temperature was almost 3 degrees Celsius above the average between 1961 and 1990. The evidence is compelling if members open their eyes and look at it. It is a climate emergency and that means real action is required now before we entrench the disaster and hand it over to our children.

That is why The Greens will not support Labor's amendments. They cut out all the meaningful action required to get us there. They cut out the urgent transition to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. They cut out the commitment to de‑carbonise our economy. They cut out the switch to 100 per cent renewable energy. That is why I support the motion unamended.

Mr JUSTIN FIELD (17:57:07): I support the motion because the science is clear and the ecological and economic consequences of failing to take action are clear. I support the motion because I want a safe and healthy future for my son. I support the motion because an extinction crisis is being driven by the climate emergency.

I understand the Government's response in outlining a range of things that it has done but I will put that in context. I have spoken about this issue in the House and the facts speak for themselves. The Government has an aspirational target with no plan to reach it. The climate change framework is in draft form and has been since 2016. The Climate Change Fund is underspent, I believe, to the tune of almost $300 million, if not $400 million. That money is desperately needed by projects that can make a difference.

Some members say that the motion will not remove a molecule of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and it will not, but it will not build a dam either to meet critical water supply needs. The long title of the Climate Change Emergency Bill 2019 includes the word "emergency". We are in a climate emergency. The impact of climate change on regional New South Wales is an emergency. Climate change is an emergency in this city and around the world. Members recognise that emergency in their own actions but will not take the step of declaring a climate emergency in this place. Members must reflect on why. The politics of the issue are a mess and the consequences of that mess will be extreme.

A good government takes a risk‑management approach to issues such as this one. A risk‑management approach suggests that we take prudent action to reduce our emissions. Whether or not this House declares a climate emergency today does not change the fact that we are going to need to take action to address climate change.

I am not going to let a dispute on net zero emissions by one date or another date get in the way of building a political and a public consensus to find a way past this and take that action. Whatever we do in the detail, the only way to address this is to move away from coal and gas, move away from burning it and move away from digging it up. We must electrify our transport networks, we need to stop land clearing and we need to regrow our forests. The economic and ecological opportunities of taking action on climate change are significant. We shoot ourselves in the foot, we literally kill ourselves, if we cannot find a way through this. I implore members of this House to work together to do that today and into the future.

Ms CATE FAEHRMANN (18:00:09): In reply: I thank members for their contributions—although I do not thank them for some of the content of those contributions. I wonder what it is going to take for some members in this place who are not at the extreme climate denialist end to acknowledge that we are in a climate emergency. The frustration is not that they are not coming to the table now on the climate emergency; it is that they have not done anything further in the face of so much evidence that we are in a climate emergency. We have not seen anything from this Government despite whole towns running out of water, despite fires in rainforests and places where fires should not be, and despite hundreds of millions of people across the planet demanding action.

We have had nothing from this Government in the last 12 months, since last summer, despite all of the evidence. The Government carries on as though it is business as usual and there is nothing to see here. Our house is literally on fire. I recently went to rainforests that have burnt. The Gondwana Rainforests were never supposed to burn—yet they have burnt to the ground. The Government knows this and it knows that areas of koala habitat, for example, are also burning to the ground—areas that should not burn. Yet the Government in reply to this speech—and I acknowledge the Hon. Ben Franklin is on the koala inquiry with me and I know he is concerned about these issues—simply refuses to do anything more. It is not true that the Government is doing everything it can to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. I urge members to support the motion and I urge the Government and Government members to maybe consider—at some point—crossing the floor on this issue.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (The Hon. Courtney Houssos): Ms Cate Faehrmann has moved a motion, to which the Hon. Penny Sharpe has moved an amendment. The question is the amendment be agreed to.

Amendment agreed to.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that the motion as amended be agreed to.

The House divided.

Ayes18

Noes20

Majority2

AYES

Boyd, Ms A

Buttigieg, Mr M (teller)

D'Adam, Mr A (teller)

Faehrmann, Ms C

Field, Mr J

Graham, Mr J

Houssos, Mrs C

Hurst, Ms E

Jackson, Ms R

Mookhey, Mr D

Moriarty, Ms T

Moselmane, Mr S

Pearson, Mr M

Primrose, Mr P

Secord, Mr W

Sharpe, Ms P

Shoebridge, Mr D

Veitch, Mr M

     

 

NOES

Amato, Mr L

Banasiak, Mr M

Borsak, Mr R

Cusack, Ms C

Fang, Mr W

Farlow, Mr S

Farraway, Mr S.J. (teller)

Franklin, Mr B

Harwin, Mr D

Khan, Mr T

Latham, Mr M

Maclaren-Jones, Mrs (teller)

Mallard, Mr S

Martin, Mr T

Mason-Cox, Mr M

Nile, Revd Mr

Roberts, Mr R

Taylor, Mrs

Tudehope, Mr D

Ward, Mrs N

 

     

 

PAIRS

Donnelly, Mr G

Mitchell, Mrs

Searle, Mr A

Ajaka, Mr

   

 

Motion as amended negatived.

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
25 October 2019
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