MOTIONS - Climate Change Emergency 15/10/19

October 15, 2019

The Labor Party will support this suspension motion. As members of the House may well know, I lodged, seconded by the member for Shortland, a similar motion seeking to have the parliament declare a climate emergency this afternoon. Although our motions are different in some respects, the broad thrust of the motion being proposed by the member for Melbourne and seconded by the member for Clark is of a similar type to the motion that's been proposed by the Labor Party today.

As I think members also know, because they will be receiving advice from their own constituents, there are at the moment almost 350,000 Australians who have signed a petition asking this parliament to follow the lead of parliaments in the UK, Canada and several other nations besides, not to mention all of the city councils and local government areas in Australia and beyond who have declared a climate emergency, because over the past 12 months in particular we have received piece after piece of urgent advice from the world's scientists, from the world's health professionals and from the world's leading economic regulators that things are getting very dire indeed around the climate. The IPCC has issued three reports in the last 12 or 18 months, each of them more urgent than the first, saying that the window is closing on our generation's ability to meet our responsibility to our children, our grandchildren and generations beyond to discharge the commitments set out in the Paris agreement to ensure that global warming is kept well below two degrees and to pursue efforts around 1.5 degrees. The advice from the scientists on the IPCC could not be clearer. In recent days, we've again seen the Bank of England governor, who chaired the Financial Stability Board, reiterate his advice and the advice of that board. The leading 20 economies in the world indicate that this is a leading risk to the stability of the global financial system, echoing advice from the RBA, APRA, ASIC and other economic regulators here in Australia. We've seen very recently the AMA reflect advice of their equivalents overseas that climate change poses a health emergency, reflecting also the advice of the World Health Organization that climate change is the defining health challenge of the 21st century. All of that advice is framed around the commitments in the Paris agreement.

What we should all understand is that we are currently on track to exceed three degrees of global warming, which would be utterly catastrophic not just for Australia but for all nations around the world, and the window is closing on our generation's unique ability to meet our responsibility to future generations. As former US President Barack Obama said, this generation is the first to feel the impacts of climate change and the last with a serious ability to do something about it. That is why parliaments in the UK, Canada and several other nations have already recognised climate change as an emergency, and that is why this parliament should do the same thing.

The motion moved by the member for Melbourne and the motion lodged by me on behalf of the Labor Party are in relatively uncontroversial terms. They don't seek to make political points about the performance or otherwise of this government in this policy area. We can have a heated debate about what we should be doing and how we should be doing it, but that should be for another day. Today we should try to unite as a parliament about why we should be doing something about climate change and why it is so urgent that this generation, which has a unique place in response to this defining challenge of the 21st century, respond to the advice from economists, from scientists and from health professionals that this is an emergency. That's why standing orders should be suspended to allow this parliament to have this debate.