Climate change

  • August 31, 2021

Climate change is unquestionably one of the great threats facing the world in the 21st century. The consequences of failing to respond would be dire for humankind, peaceful international cooperation, our economic and social structures and the planet’s biodiversity. As we head towards COP26 in Glasgow, there has been positive and growing recognition that the international community will need to increase its ambition if we are to address the incredible challenges presented by climate change.

I know that residents in my electorate feel strongly about this issue, but that is not unique. Australians in every corner of the country—city and rural, young and old—recognise the importance of reducing Australia’s emissions as part of that global effort. At a federal level, the government has committed to the medium-term 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent and the longer term goal of reaching net zero emissions. To achieve these targets we’re backing Australian-led innovation and technology for a range of mechanisms, including the $20 billion low-emissions technology road map and through the incredible work of agencies like the CEFC, ARENA and the magnificent CSIRO. We are seeing that work bear some fruit. Our emissions are down 20.8 per cent from 2005, and they are at their lowest level since 1990.

Of course, the pandemic has driven some of the gains during the last year, but the most recent figures also reflect the transformation happening in our energy systems. Australia’s embrace of renewable energy continues, and we rank second after the Netherlands in the deployment of new wind and solar on a per capita basis. And Australians have voted with their feet—or more precisely their rooftops—in what is the world’s highest per capita deployment of household solar panels. We’ve also seen green shoots in the uptake of electric vehicles, with new figures showing the second consecutive year in which electric vehicle registrations have doubled; however, this is an area where we can do so much more, and I particularly want to commend to the House the recent Grattan Institute report on policies that could improve the electric vehicle uptake. Across our economy, companies and all levels of government are committing to more action. I’m confident these trends will ensure that we meet our Paris Agreement targets. But we must realise this isn’t the end of the journey; it is but a stage post on the way to what must be our destination of net zero emissions.

Committing to net zero emissions by 2050 is the right thing to do, and it is why I have argued that this must be a firm commitment and a target we take to Glasgow on behalf of Australia. To get there we will need greater ambition and a quickening of the pace of change across our economy. Earlier this month the IPCC released their latest report on the state of our climate. The report pulls together the findings from more than 14,000 peer-reviewed studies and provides an update on the latest physical science on climate change, including the rates, causes and likely future trajectories of global warming and other changes to climate. The report makes for grim reading and reinforces the IPCC’s earlier work—that humans have warmed the planet, causing increasing changes to the Earth’s atmosphere. Without reaching net zero emissions, the climate will continue to warm at what could become an alarming rate.

Not only does committing to net zero emissions bring significant benefit to our planet it also comes with a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for Australia. The transition to a decarbonised economy will benefit all parts of our country, but it will particularly benefit regional areas of Australia. A report by Beyond Zero Emissions has proposed the establishment of renewable energy industrial precincts in regions that are already renowned for their mining and manufacturing abilities. The report found that there’s the potential to transform the manufacturing base, for example, in the Hunter and Gladstone regions, supporting a total of 45,000 new jobs by 2032 and $13 billion in annual revenue. And the opportunities aren’t simply limited to those two regions. If successful, these projects could deliver tens of thousands of future-proof jobs and attract billions in new capital investment in our regional communities.

The work being led by the federal government in the development of hydrogen hubs across the country can and will form the foundation for developing these kinds of opportunities. If we get it right, transitioning to a decarbonised economy will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, will generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and will inject tens of billions of dollars in new capital investment into our nation. These are changes we should embrace and not fear. Adopting the 2050 net zero emissions target is not just doing the right thing but will give Australians and future generations opportunities that we can’t afford to lose.