HON TIM CLIFFORD (East Metropolitan) [1.29 pm]: I move — That this house —

(a)  acknowledges the climate crisis and declares a climate emergency; and

(b)  notes that climate change will increase the likelihood of extreme weather events, including more regular and intense bushfires and drought, and cause extreme disruption to Western Australia’s biodiversity, coastline, water and food security and economy, and to its people and their livelihoods.

Comments and speeches from various members

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [2.05 pm]: I rise to indicate that I will absolutely be supporting both parts of this motion because we have a climate change emergency and it is up to governments of all persuasions, including this government, to acknowledge that this is the case. What is the purpose of being able to declare a climate emergency? Once we have acknowledged the seriousness of an issue, it enables us to at least try to figure out the solutions to address this. It is actually everyday Australians who really give a damn about climate change. It is not true to say that it is just people from the far left who care passionately and people from the far right who are climate change deniers. I believe that the majority of Australians are starting to have increasingly grave concerns about climate change, the impacts of climate change and what the future actually holds. I am one of these people who has been talking about climate change since 1988. I remember when I was talking about that, it was about global warming. People were saying that it was not a thing. Now, at least, people acknowledge that it is a thing, but people are saying, “Oh, well. It’s too late. What can we do?” I refuse to accept that that is the case. I refuse to accept that all hope is lost, and I do not think that we have a choice other than to take it seriously.

I remind people that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been extremely clear about this. It has talked about the causes of climate change, the potential impacts of climate change and what is needed to reduce these impacts given that it is already too late to completely avoid them. As a planet, we have being faffing around on this issue for nearly 40 years. We know what is coming and why, but we are, seemingly, unable to take any sort of serious action to try to deal with this. I hope that nobody in this room needs a climate change 101 talk, but to simply summarise the key findings of the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO report “State of the Climate 2018”, we know that: Australia has already warmed by just over one degree since 1910, which has led to an increase in extreme heat events; the oceans around Australia are acidifying; winter rainfall across the south west has decreased and the usual wet months have seen the largest decrease; and there has been and will continue to be a long-term increase in the extreme fire weather and the length of the fire season across Australia. Just the other day, we heard the news that the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is very poor. The federal Minister for the Environment apparently considered this to not even be a problem. It should be inconceivable to anyone in this room, just as I believe it is inconceivable to people in the street, that this is an appropriate response to losing one of the natural wonders of the world. We are already seeing the effects.

Let me remind members that we have yet again set heat records and have had the hottest winter day ever. General insurance premiums in areas that are already feeling the effects of climate change are increasing, or in some areas are becoming unobtainable. These are straight business responses. Coastal erosion has already closed one metropolitan beach and threatens a range of infrastructure and private property around Western Australia. Our agriculture department is providing information about how to adapt and diversify as rainfall patterns change—less rain overall, but increases in heavy rainfall—and the weather warms, including more hot days. The Water Corporation has been trying to work within this realistic framework for decades. This says nothing about our neighbours who, despite the incredibly offensive offer of fruit picking in Australia, would rather not see their homes swallowed by the sea, so thanks very much, Michael McCormack.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we could hit 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming as early as 2030 at our current rate of emissions. I have said before in this place that I am more than comfortable using the language of “climate emergency” because this is an emergency. Even the AMA recognises this. We are well past the point at which we can tiptoe softly and swap out one source of carbon for another and hope that that means we will have done the job.

What is needed? This week is Asia–Pacific Climate Week 2019 in Bangkok, in preparation for the Climate Action Summit on 23 September. The United Nations special envoy for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba, has pointed out that emissions must be cut by 45 per cent by 2030 simply to ensure that we are on track for a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in heat. We have already hit 400 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I remind members that 350 parts per million was what we thought would be around a safe-ish maximum, so we are already above what was considered to be possibly, maybe safe. Do members remember That campaign has been well and truly bypassed now. We have already used more than our buffer. We can no longer give the future, or really even just our older selves—some here in the chamber are younger people who will be around for a very, very long time—the world and climate that we were lucky enough to inherit. Even if Australia and the other G20 nations were to meet their Paris Agreement targets, global emissions would still be too high to even keep warming below two degrees Celsius. Under the 2030 target, global emissions increase from the current 53.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to 56 gigatonnes. If we want to keep warming below two degrees Celsius, that needs to be a global figure of 40 gigatonnes. If we want to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, that figure needs to be 26 gigatonnes by 2030. How is that not an emergency? Members, it is—it is an emergency. That is how far gone we are. Western Australia’s emissions have increased 23.4 per cent since 2005. We cannot afford to keep failing like this. We cannot afford to let the big carbon polluters set policy on this critical public issue. We cannot let the politicians do this either.

I understand that this is challenging news for the Western Australian Labor Party. There has been absolutely no appetite by Labor MPs to represent the urgency of the climate crisis felt by the ordinary members of their party, or to even match federal Labor policy, which, members might recall, was also to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, because that is what is needed. Instead, I note that WA Labor is merrily accepting the federal Liberal Party climate targets that we know will not meet Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement. How could people be anything other than furious and scared and, I think, beyond frustrated with the response from both state and federal governments? How could this be anything other than an emergency? Declaring a climate crisis and acting on it is the very least we can and need to do. This is especially so for a government that has shamefully attempted to muzzle the Environmental Protection Authority, both in March and in its recent announcement of its 2030 and 2050 aspirational targets. The smugness of the WA government adopting below par emissions standards and expecting the EPA to fall into line is beyond belief. Should the EPA actually do so, expecting the public to shrug its shoulders and simply resume business as normal is, frankly, ridiculous. People will not cop it.

While other jurisdictions in Australia are starting to lower their CO2 equivalent emissions, here in WA we are putting more pollution into the atmosphere, and we are choosing to do it while sanctimoniously declaring that carbon from liquefied natural gas is better than carbon from coal. We are already at 400 parts per million carbon. Carbon from anywhere is not better; it is actively making the situation worse. Total net zero emissions by 2050 is, of course, a nice aspiration, but nobbling the EPA’s attempt to get it started by sorting out the big polluters that are most able to pay is self-contradictory nonsense. Of course, there is strong pushback from the carbon-dependant industries, particularly the LNG industry. Who do they think they are kidding? Gas production is the fastest growing source of carbon pollution in Australia and is effectively wiping out the gains made by moving to renewable energy in the electricity sector. What we are doing in Western Australia by allowing Gorgon to continue operating while it is utterly failing to meet its operating conditions is effectively cancelling out any of the gains made in other states. Half of Australia’s increase in carbon dioxide emissions is from the failure of that one project, Gorgon, to meet its conditions. If we make the mistake of fully realising the projections for fossil fuel expansion in Australia and the other countries actually meet their Paris Agreement targets, our little state will be responsible for about 13 per cent of global emissions by 2030.

Moving towards net zero emissions right now on the path to decarbonising the economy is essential. Concerns are often raised about how jobs will be lost if we make even the smallest attempt at reining in carbon emissions. However, multiple sets of modelling by numerous bodies show there are more jobs in renewable energy generation than in coal or gas electricity generation. In some industries, such as the carbon-intense alumina refining industry, it is difficult to see a path towards decarbonisation, but those industries can still be required to move towards net zero emissions, and they can do it faster than 2050. There will be a bonus. Guess what, members: there are a lot of jobs in carbon offsets as well.

The kicker of this is that while some of our largest polluters in LNG claim they are all about investing in the state, they pay very little tax, they pay no royalties, and they do not actually employ many people either. The Australia Institute made this interesting comment —

Oil and gas extraction employs less people per dollar of value added than any other industry, including other parts of the resource sector. If employment growth is the policy goal, then investment in virtually any other industry will deliver better results.

The worst part is that the economics means that once the capital is committed to these large projects, the only sensible economic thing to do, even though it is going to destroy the planet, is to get as much money back on the sunk costs as possible. Even as prices fall, because we are flooding the markets with carbon, it is making our carbon crisis worse. I am sick of hearing the old chestnut of outdated nuclear technology. It is fascinating that it comes from people who would not tolerate for one second having a nuclear reactor in their backyard. There are different ways that we can do this. We do not have to look at outdated technologies that are dangerous and that produce nuclear waste. I am yet to hear one person in this place stand up and promote nuclear energy who can also give me the long-term solution to deal with nuclear waste. If anyone can do that, I would be very interested to hear about it, apart from the option of just choosing to bury it in the traditional lands of the First Nation people of Australia.

In my remaining time I will talk a little about donations. Concerns are always expressed about donations to political parties that are paid by large carbon polluters. As I have raised previously in a debate in this place, the tricks of the legislation provide the space for huge amounts of money to be hidden from view.

We know that in 2017–18, plenty of money went to both major parties as donations from the LNG sector. At least the industry reported it, even though neither of the major parties did. That is because the loopholes in our reporting arrangements enabled that to occur. Despite the fact that one LNG company reported donating more than $20 000 to each of the parties, we know that that was never reported by those parties. We also know that huge amounts of money coming in are simply not required to be reported, so we know that they are not being reported. Just the other day, we saw reports of a $10 000 per head dinner in the eastern states, which would not show up in any reporting of donations. That is just one of the ways to avoid transparency about who is paying for access to MPs.

In conclusion, members—I am keen to hear what other members have to say about this; hopefully, their contributions can be a bit better than they have been so far today—the Morrison government’s targets for carbon reduction are wildly insufficient. They are appalling. The WA Labor Party should be desperately ashamed of itself for adopting those same appalling targets. We know that 2050 is far too late to be aiming for net zero emissions. The fact that we are using words like “aspirational” is just distressing beyond belief. The year 2030 is far too late to be aiming for a reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions that is not nearly enough. The time for action was decades ago. The time for emergency action is right now. This is what Australians want. They want to see leadership from our Parliaments and from our governments. We have to act on this. We do not have time to stuff around anymore.

Comments and speeches from various members

Amendment to Motion

Hon STEPHEN DAWSON: I want to make sure that a sensible motion is passed in this place this afternoon that the community can be proud of. Therefore, I move —

To delete paragraphs (a) and (b) and substitute —

(a)  acknowledges the reality of climate change and calls on the federal government to take action to ensure Australia meets its obligations under the Paris Agreement; and

(b)  notes that climate change has increased the likelihood of extreme weather events, including more regular and intense bushfires and drought, and may cause extreme disruption to Western Australia’s biodiversity, coastline, water and food security, and economy, and its people, their health and livelihoods.

HON TIM CLIFFORD (East Metropolitan) [2.38 pm]: I am really disappointed in the Minister for Environment for attempting to water down the motion.

Comments and speeches from various members

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [2.43 pm]: The Greens will not support this amendment, because it would effectively allow the state government to renege on its obligation to address climate change. That is the problem here. I think it is really important that this place realises that we are dealing with a situation that is an emergency. We are dealing with a situation that has already got to the point of crisis. Those two words—“emergency” and “crisis”—will effectively be removed from the motion by this amendment. I have to say how disappointing it is, but utterly predictable, that once again in this place we are looking at amending a motion in order to, in this instance, water it down while our planet burns. I think that is hugely problematic. The Greens have never voted to support amendments to motions. People here know that. We will certainly not tolerate the sort of amendment being contemplated here. This amendment is designed to wipe the state government’s hands of having to take responsibility for its contributions to carbon emissions. Do we think the federal government needs to lift its game? Oh, my goodness, yes! We have been saying that consistently and will continue to say it, but the state government has a role to play as well.

Comments and speeches from various members


Amendment put and a division taken with the following result —

Ayes (25)

Noes (6)

Amendment thus passed.

Motion, as Amended

Comments and speeches from various members

Question put and passed.


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