Parliament House, Canberra

Submission to Climate Change Bill Inquiry

The Independent MP for Warringah has presented a Climate Change Bill to the Australian parliament. You can read about the bill here.

The Bill has been referred to the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy, which has opened a public inquiry. You can make a submission up until Friday 27 November.

I have made a submission, so I thought I would share it here. I encourage you to consider making a submission too.

Submission to Climate Change Bill inquiry

I am a 75 year-old retired engineering hydrologist who has taken an interest in climate change for several decades. I am writing to support this bill because I believe both the Government and the Opposition are not addressing climate change with the necessary commitment to action.

I believe if this bill is adopted it will help provide the needed discipline and focus to ensure we get real bipartisan action and not just talk.

1. The situation is becoming critical

We have known for several decades that our earth is warming and the consequences are critical for human and natural world flourishing. The science is becoming increasingly reliable, and is confirming the broad predictions of the late twentieth century (Hughes Fact Check website).

Last summer’s disastrous bushfires were made worse by record hot and dry conditions exacerbated by climate change (CSIRO).

And yet the government has avoided action, so that time is running out. We need to start concerted planning and action as soon as possible.

2. Australia is one of the worst offenders

Australia isn’t pulling its weight. Most other advanced democracies have plans in place – for example United Kingdom (UK Net Zero Target) and the European Union (EU plans to increase offshore windfarm capacity 25-fold). The US President-elect has committed to effective action to achieve net zero by 2050 (Biden-Harris website). Australia has been assessed as the worst per capita carbon emitter in the world (Our World in Data). I and most commentators don’t believe the government is really on track at present to achieve the necessary goals.

3. There are good economic reasons to act now

The Australian Climate Roundtable, which includes business and financial leaders and energy companies, has criticised the government for being “woefully unprepared” on climate and energy, and are pressing the government to move decisively to net zero emissions by 2050 (Australian Climate Roundtable). The Roundtable statement is quite clear:

“The economy-wide costs of not achieving the Paris Agreement objectives far outweigh the costs of a smooth transition to net-zero emissions.”

Deloitte Access Economics has modelled the economy (Deloitte Access Economics) and concluded:

“If climate change goes unchecked, then Australia’s economy will be 6%
smaller and have 880,000 fewer jobs by 2070. That’s a $3.4 trillion lost opportunity over the next half a century. But there’s a $680 billion dividend that’s ours for the taking if we do rise to this challenge, along with 250,000 more jobs.”

A group of more than 700 doctors has written to the government (Sydney Morning Herald), pointing out the health costs of climate change: “there is already a noticeable health impact from increased frequency and intensity of bushfires, floods, dust storms, drought and extreme heat in Australia”. They say the annual cost of these health issues is already in the tens of billions of dollars.

And the cost of the summer bushfires alone has been estimated at more than $10 billion, with the loss of more than 400 lives (directly, plus from smoke), 3,000 homes and a billion animals (Hughes Fact Check).

It is clear that not acting is costing Australians dearly – and it will only get worse. The Government must act for the future benefit of all Australians.

4. Renewable energy is now cheaper than coal or gas

Coal, gas and oil have served the human race well. But their time as our major source of power is past. Building gas or coal power stations is a large sunk cost that will likely not be worth the investment in Australia (Quantifying operational lifetimes for coal power plants under the Paris goals). Energy businesses are highly unlikely to fund coal or gas power stations, and the government should NOT even think of putting taxpayers’ money into a foolish “gas-led recovery”.

Renewables are now cheaper (Climate Council), more versatile and can be built in smaller investment stages – ideal for government and private investment.

Australia has abundant sources of solar, wind and tidal energy, and developing them will create jobs and invigorate the economy far more than a gas-led recovery will. No other developed country has such an exciting opportunity! But Australian energy companies are reluctant to invest in renewables because of the government’s poor policy and support, and overseas companies are eager to takeover.

Energy experts say that renewable sources are well capable of supplying Australia’s needs. Australia is well positioned to be a world leader in renewable energy (Financial Review).

5. There are good political reasons to act now

The extent of fossil fuel lobbying and influence in government has been well documented (Greenpeace). A recent survey by ANU showed (Australian National University):

• record high levels of distrust in government, and
• more than half of the Australian people believe “the government is run for a few big interests”.

The government’s announcement of a gas-fired recovery and its lack of real commitment to decisive climate action will only increase community concerns that the government is less interested in good policy than in serving those big interests and in short term electoral gain.

Our government needs to represent the electors, a majority of whom are concerned and want climate action (Australia Institute & ABC News), and all of whom need the government to act to preserve our future.

Conclusion

For all these reasons, I think it is clear that it is in Australia’s interest to join the rest of the first world in acting decisively on climate change, by:

  • committing to net zero by 2050, with detailed planning and risk assessment to achieve this;
  • setting out the reasons for this commitment and using all its influence to encourage support from all sectors of the economy and society;
  • supporting the development and use of technologies to assist this move; and
  • setting up an independent climate change commission to advise and oversee this ambitious program.

I therefore wholeheartedly support this bill and ask the parliament of Australia to enact it. I believe future generations will thank you if you do, but will judge you if you fail at this point.

Thank you.

Photo: Parliament House, Canberra, by Thennicke (Wikipedia)

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