Labor's moves on climate - is it enough?

Abigail spoke in Parliament on Labor's climate bill (in it's initial form before any Greens amendments!). 

Abigail said:

I speak on the Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Bill 2023 and reinforce the excellent comments of my colleague Ms Sue Higginson in expressing The Greens' opposition to the bill in its current form. This bill will take us backwards. This bill does not take the climate crisis seriously. This bill is willing complicity, in an apathy and a lack of leadership from captured and corrupted governments around the world, which will see this planet smash through even the most modest of international agreements that seek to limit global heating. This bill, with its inadequate targets, is a white flag in the face of the challenge that faces us. It is worse than a white flag; it is an active choice of betrayal of future generations. It is a permission structure for government inaction in the face of rampant profiteering from the fossil fuel industry. This bill will institutionalise failure. Let it be known that, once again, Labor has fallen short and backed away from the challenge.

Climate change is a matter of justice. That much is undeniable. Climate change is often described as humanity's greatest challenge. That is not quite correct. Climate change is humanity's greatest threat, but the challenge of tackling it is not so broadly distributed. The onus for urgent climate action rests predominantly with the wealthiest jurisdictions, the jurisdictions emitting the most. They are the communities most responsible and most capable of influencing which climate futures will be experienced by the whole world. New South Wales is one of the wealthiest States in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Our wealth is built on the back of the extractive industries driving the climate crisis that, if left unabated, will see untold wreckage and destruction displace billions of people from their homes and leave them cast adrift in an increasingly dangerous and hostile world. It is our eminent responsibility to do everything within our privilege and within our power to avert the humanitarian and ethical crisis.

The climate debate often gets bogged down in technicalities of sciences, which is somewhat understandable because global heating is a physics question. However, the problem lies not in our comprehension of the science—that was settled a long time ago. The problem is the failure of political leadership. The problem is playing out right here, right now, in this Chamber. The legislation is failing us, our global neighbours, future generations and the promise of change. My colleague Sue Higginson has expertly outlined technical arguments and elements of the legislation and, frankly, has torn it to pieces. But that is not where the true failure lies. We do not need to read anything further in the legislation beyond the inadequate emissions reduction targets. Everything else is just fluff.

People whose homes have been swept away by floods do not care that there will be a Net Zero Commission. The guiding principles mean little to people who are freezing or sweltering to death or whose homes have been burnt down by increasingly devastating and frequent bushfires or are being inundated by rising seas. People who have been driven off their lands because of drought, disease and devastation do not care. The only thing that will make a difference is strong and binding legislated targets of emissions reductions. A 50 per cent reduction by 2030 and a net zero by 2050 target is a deliberate betrayal. It is a sick joke of a craven government patently unfit to lead in this time of intense urgency. I honestly wish that I could stand here and say, "Well done, Labor. Finally, we have legislation in this State that is going to guarantee we have a future." It gives me no pleasure to instead raise the alarm on what is frankly a negligent and dangerous bill. The bill is not just words without action; it is false hope. It is a cosy blanket of talking about climate action while carrying on with business as usual.

We would all like to snuggle under that blanket, but while we are denying the reality the world is literally burning around us. We do not have time to wait. We do not have time to send lukewarm signals to the market. We do not have time to think we can just set aspirational targets, get them set over and over by a commission full of people and not make the hard decisions that will get to us net zero. If we want to do our bit to avoid catastrophic climate change, we have no choice but to stop opening new coal and gas projects, and to stop logging our native forests. We have no choice but to rapidly upgrade our public transport system, move away from industrialised agriculture and do every single thing we can to get to net zero as fast as possible.

If we pass the bill as it currently stands—without binding and scientific targets—we are setting ourselves up for further failure, because we will set and forget. Labor will tick the box on climate action without making the difficult decisions that need to be made. The Greens will not stand by and let Labor double down on the mistakes of the last 20 years of governments in this country. We will not greenwash the bill when we know, and the community knows, that it is not what real climate action looks like. The simple truth is that there is no justice—no social justice, economic justice or racial justice—without climate justice. Climate justice means taking responsibility, showing leadership and taking swift and decisive action. As it stands the legislation does none of those things. If it is passed in its current form, then history will condemn this Chamber as failing the promise to future generations. I urge the Government and all members to do the right thing—stand up and be counted as having fought for the right thing, rather than having laid down for the easy one.

Read the full debate in Hansard.

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