Zali Steggall’s Climate Change bill

The Australian Government doesn’t have an effective and credible climate change policy, and seems unable to stand against vested interests to commit to one.

A climate change bill proposed by Zali Steggall, the Independent Member for Warringah, seems to offer the best hope for Australia to join the world in combatting climate change.

Here’s a brief rundown.

Who needs a climate change act?

This one ought to be obvious. Australia does! Zali Steggall, MP says:

The impacts of Climate Change represent the greatest threat to our national security, our economy, our health and our environment. But if we implement an effective plan now, we can create a safe and prosperous future for ourselves and our children.

What Zali did next

Barrister and former Olympic skier, Zali Steggall, was elected in 2018 as the Independent Member for the Federal seat of Warringah, replacing former PM Tony Abbott. In November 2020 she introduced her bill into Parliament. The bill, if passed by Parliament, would become an Act that would be law.

Parliament referred the bill to a committee, which asked for public submissions. Over 2,000 submissions were received – for what it’s worth, mine is #314. It is anticipated that the report will be presented to Parliament in May 2021.

What the Act aims to achieve

The Climate Act is aimed at ensuring the long-term safety, security and prosperity of Australia by achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050. It includes these components:

  • net zero emissions by 2050
  • risk assessments and adaptation plans
  • technology readiness assessment
  • an independent advisory commission

This would lead to the following outcomes:

Jobs and Growth

The Climate Act will put in place plans to harness low emission technology and projects, triggering a sustainable jobs boom for all of Australia.

Lower cost energy

The Climate Act will help speed up our transition to low emissions technologies that are driving down energy prices.

Investment certainty

By putting plans in place for key industries the Climate Act will enable businesses to invest with certainty in new low emissions technologies.

Trade certainty

By legislating Net Zero, the Climate Act will tell our trading partners we are committed to reducing our emissions and will avoid carbon tariffs being imposed on our exports.

But what about the economy?

The proposed legislation is similar to successful legislation in United Kingdom, France and Ireland. It recognises that there are significant opportunities in new industries like renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture and green finance.

During the time the British Climate Change Act (it was passed in 2008!) has been in place, the UK’s GDP has grown by 67%, while emissions have fallen by 42%. There are now more than 390,000 jobs in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains, employing people across the UK. The UK’s low-carbon and renewable-energy economy was worth £43bn in 2016.

We can have economic growth and protect our way of life!

How it works 

The legislation doesn’t try to tell Government how to achieve the goals, but sets statutory targets, a long-term pathway to achieve those targets and an independent body to keep the government focused and on track. It ensures that plans cannot be shelved or forgotten, for example when there is a change of government.

“All plans are made with overarching principles like intergenerational equity, transparency, fiscal responsibility and the best available science to ensure these plans are fair, equitable and consistent with best practice.”

Will it happen?

It is hard to know what will happen when the bill comes before Parliament. The government relies on the support of independents for its majority, and it is hard to see new Independent Craig Kelly MP supporting this bill. But the government , or some of its members, may choose to support it.

We can give it the best chance by writing to whichever Parliamentarian we think represents us – maybe Hughes voters could choose a Senator.

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