Jun 20, 2005

Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol Ratifcation) Bill 2005, Second


Second Reading

20 June 2005

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (1.16 p.m.)—I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol Ratification) Bill 2005 should be passed by this parliament and it should be passed today. It should be passed right now because climate change is happening right now. We are at one of the most important crossroads in our history. Climate change is the greatest threat to the health of Australia and our planet. It is the greatest environmental challenge facing the global community.

This bill provides for action by the Australian government. If passed, it will see an end to Australia’s complacency and isolation from the global effort to avoid dangerous climate change and will require the Australian government to take action. Firstly, it will require the government to ratify the Kyoto protocol within 60 days of the commencement of the act. Secondly, it will require to government to ensure Australia meets its greenhouse emission target set out in the protocol—this is 108 per cent of 1990 levels. Only Iceland has a higher target. Thirdly, the minister must develop a national climate change action plan setting out our national strategy for meeting our greenhouse emission target. Fourthly, the minister would have to establish an annual greenhouse gas inventory and publish the results. And, fifthly, the minister must also develop a framework for involvement in the international trading of carbon. This would include emissions trading but also clean development mechanism projects in developing countries. If passed, the bill will enable Australia to enjoy the benefits that flow from meeting our international obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

This is not a debate about Right or Left. This is a debate about right and wrong. It is a debate about old ways or new paths. It is not a debate about blame; it is a debate about real solutions to problems that are real now, but potentially catastrophic if not addressed. Average global temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees over the past century. The 10 hottest years on record have all been in the last 14 years. Glaciers that have not retreated since the last ice age 12,000 years ago are now doing so. Australians can already see the kinds of impacts that will only get worse as warming advances: the four-year drought, the drop in rainfall in Western Australia, Kakadu being flooded by salt water, and coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

Experts predict that Australia is going to get progressively drier over the coming century. According to the CSIRO, climate change will only worsen drought conditions. What Australia does in the next decade to avoid dangerous climate change will determine the fate of our economy, our environment and our way of life. Ratification of Kyoto is not only good for the environment it is good for the economy. That is why the Prime Minister proclaimed in 1997, when Australia signed the Kyoto protocol, that Kyoto was a win for the environment and a win for Australian jobs. The Prime Minster was right then but he is wrong now.

The potential for innovation and therefore business investment and growth is immense. With the right policy framework, it has the potential to unleash new commercial forces and unforeseen economic opportunities. By not ratifying, Australia is giving the world a jump-start on entry to a dynamic driving force of 21st century economies. Australian companies and our economy will be disadvantaged if we exclude ourselves from carbon markets and the developing renewable energy technology markets. The investment will simply go elsewhere. Pacific Solar has already moved to Germany. Businesses that want to take advantage of the clean development mechanism provisions are already establishing themselves in New Zealand.

Emissions trading is the most efficient way of achieving outcomes because it reduces the cost of reducing emissions and therefore provides the most effective method of encouraging action. That is why state and territory governments have agreed on a framework to introduce a state based scheme. But it requires national leadership. The Howard government’s response has been to abolish the Australian Greenhouse Office—confirmed in the last budget. Were it not for the decisions of the Beattie and Carr governments to stem land clearing, Australia would not meet our Kyoto target.

Given that Australia will meet our generous target, it is absurd that Australia remains on the outside looking in. Like almost every international agreement Australia is part of, it is not perfect. But it is an important first step, and it is the only game in town. Labor believes that Australia is missing out on significant opportunities by not ratifying the Kyoto protocol. It is in the interests of our economy, our health and the international community for us to sign up and ratify Kyoto immediately. We need to become part of the coalition of the willing when it comes to tackling climate change, and I call for a full debate and a vote on this bill.