Australia’s commitment to climate action was on full display this morning, as advocates lined the streets to Parliament House in Canberra in support of Federal Independent MP Zali Steggall’s private member’s bill, legislating a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
Ms Steggall’s bill calls for accountability benchmarks every five years, the establishment of a climate change commission to assist with emerging technologies and mandated transition plans for communities reliant on fossil fuels for employment.
Ms Steggall told the Australia Institute today that climate change was “the challenge of our time” and Australia had already seen “too many years of divisive politics”.
“I’ve asked the Prime Minister to be brave and show leadership to put Australia on the path to safety,” she said.
Ms Steggall said her bill included a collaborative approach and a key goal to unify the electorate behind science.
The bill will now be referred to a committee for public enquiry and open to submissions from the public.
Ms Steggall said it was an important part of the process for business, community, and individuals to put their climate change views on the record.
“It’s well past time we have a public debate,” she said.
Ms Steggall said public hearings would “ventilate this away from the cycle of politics” before it returned to the House for a vote.
And it would be ideal to make it a free vote in the parliament so the Government would not be held to ransom from “minority MP’s that are the fossils of the parliament”.
“We need Australians to hold their local member to account,” Ms Steggall said.
“The facts and the truth matter. There is no more room for spin.
“Pretending this isn’t happening is not a plan.”
Ms Steggall said her bill legislated a “sensible pathway” to a common goal, with a method, a risk assessment and plans for adaptation and mitigation.
She said Australia’s emissions had gone up over the last four years and we were not going to “meet and beat” our emission reduction targets despite the government rhetoric.
“We will not meet and beat our targets,” she said.
“We need the strong science-based approach to decision making that we had during COVID.
“We need to flatten the curve on our emissions.”
Former Chief Scientist of Australia from 2008 to 2011, Professor Penny Sackett, said we had an extraordinary beginning to the year, and hoped the year would end on a more hopeful note after the passing of Ms Steggall’s bill in parliament.
“What an extraordinary way to begin a year,” Professor Sackett said.
“We can’t wait until 2049 to take action. We have to start now, and our initial decreases will need to be pretty steep.”
Professor Sackett said data from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) showed the Australian response to unique and threatened systems, extreme weather events and large-scale singular events (tipping points) was not sufficient.
“We need to keep global heating as close to 1.5 as we can,” she said.
“We can do it. But we can’t do it by dragging our feet.”