Bowen presents case for Climate Change Bill
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney – M E TIMES Int’l: Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, addressing parliament in Canberra on Wednesday, advocated for his fellow MPs to support the Climate Change Bill 2022. The following are edited extracts from his speech.
It's no accident that one of the first pieces of legislation introduced by the Albanese government in the 47th Parliament is in response to one of the most urgent and pressing issues of our time—climate change.
For too long, too much time has been devoted in the newspaper columns of this country and in this place to fighting the 'climate wars'. The political infighting has seen Australia not just pause progress but go backwards, to miss the economic and jobs opportunities that come from real action on climate change.
This bill represents an opportunity for this parliament and for our country.
An opportunity to send the message at home and abroad.
Not only does Australia have a government that is getting on with the job of providing a coherent policy to accelerate investment in renewable energy, transmission and storage.
But we have a parliament that is getting on with the job as well.
This legislation is important not so much because of what it obliges governments and ministers to do, although there are significant elements of that in the bill.
But more because of the message of stable, clear, coherent and necessary policy it sends to the private sector, to private investors, when it comes to investing in renewable energy, that Australia is open for business and raring to go.
It sends a message that Australia is back as a good international citizen.
It sends a message that Australia now has a government and a parliament that wants Australia to be a renewable energy powerhouse.
The passage of this bill will be important for the message it sends:
to future generations—that we are determined to lift our game and be better for them;
for our economy—because acting on climate change also means harnessing the opportunities of a renewable revolution;
for business—who have been crying out for policy certainty after having the lane ropes changed on them time after time; and
for our nation—restoring our international credibility, and playing a constructive leadership role, particularly in the Pacific. For our regional neighbours, as well as for our Australian citizens in the Torres Strait, who are dealing with the impacts of climate change every day, it is not a projection for them—it is a lived reality.
The Albanese government's introduction of this legislation at the first opportunity also signals that we are done talking. The time for action is now.
Now we know this legislation is not the end of the work—far from it. It is simply the beginning. The real task lies in the implementation and achievement of the goals we are outlining today.
This bill is simple. Simple, yet powerful.
The bill is a solid foundation, setting clearly and firmly, in Australian law, our emissions reduction ambitions. It holds the government of the day properly accountable to the Australian parliament and the Australian people, on how it measures up to those ambitions, and how it is addressing this fundamental issue.
Firstly, the bill sets out the 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets, with the 2030 target of a 43 per cent emissions reduction against 2005 levels. The Powering Australia policy platform we took to the Australian people promised a 43 per cent reduction, and the policies included in that document underpin that emissions reduction. It represents an ambitious—but also achievable—goal.
I want to make an important point to the House—43 per cent is not a limit on our emissions ambition. On the contrary, as we've said repeatedly, we see 43 per cent as a floor on what our country can achieve.
We said it in our nationally determined contribution that we've already sent the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: it is our hope that our commitments and the commitments of industry, states and territories and local government will yield even greater emissions reductions in the coming decade and into the future.
I also want to make this point: 2030 is 89 months away. We do not have long to achieve these goals. We have been waiting too long, and now is the time to get on with it.
Secondly, the bill provides that the minister responsible for climate change will give an annual climate change statement to parliament.
The annual climate change statement will be tabled in parliament and will include an update on Australia's progress towards meeting those emission reduction targets, as well as on climate change policy and relevant international developments.
Thirdly, a restored Climate Change Authority will provide the minister with independent, expert advice on that annual statement—and that advice will be published in an open and transparent way.
This will ensure ongoing transparency and accountability on these matters of international significance.
The Australian community will be able to see what the independent authority thinks about the effectiveness of Australia's climate change policy, and how it is tracking towards achieving our targets.
Finally, the Climate Change Authority will provide advice on any new or updated emission reduction targets to be communicated to the UN under the Paris Agreement—and that advice will also be published. That advice will be given to the government at least once every five years.
The Climate Change Authority's advice will provide an independent, expert, authoritative assessment of Australia's contribution to global action. The Climate Change Authority will consult on the advice that it gives to government on targets, which will mean that the Australian community will be able to contribute to that advice, and it will provide an independent, expert assessment of Australia's proper contribution to global action.
The bill lays the crucial foundation, upon which the policies and measures to come will be built. These policies include Rewiring the Nation, an enhanced safeguard mechanism, and Australia's first-ever electric vehicle strategy, that the Albanese government will deliver—all crucial building blocks for Australia's transition to net zero.
While the commitment to reach net zero by 2050 is a key target to be legislated by this bill, the Australian people gave us a mandate for a more meaningful 2030 target, which we have now already committed to achieve under the Paris Agreement.
I'd like to acknowledge the spirit of constructive engagement on this bill from the crossbenches of both this House and the other place.
We've been very clear: a sensible government will consult across the parliament and take on board sensible suggestions in keeping with our mandate. That has been and will continue to be our approach.
Not everyone in this House has indicated a willingness to participate in that process.
Some have indicated they will simply oppose the bill, indicating that they don't accept the message from the Australian people sent on 21 May that the time for action on climate is now.
This is disappointing.
It's also disappointing to the Australian business community, who've indicated very strongly that passing this legislation is important for business certainty.
Both the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have urged bipartisan support for the approach and targets adopted in the bill before us today.
The opposition had a choice: they could vote for progress or choose to peddle the same, discredited scare campaigns they have peddled for the last two decades. They've made that choice. It's a disappointing one. But we won't be deterred from proceeding with legislation which is important to achieving this investment.
People and history will judge a political party that has sought to keep the climate wars going and stands against the necessary framework for unleashing private sector investment.
The government has been very clear.
And while we turn our back on renewable energy, the opportunities will, frankly, just go elsewhere. And we have the resources, the capability and the know-how to become a renewable energy superpower, not just in one part of Australia, but across multiple sectors of our economy. In clean energy, in battery manufacturing, in commodities, and in value-adding such commodities as aluminium, lithium, copper, cobalt and nickel.
There is a significant export market waiting for us—if we get the levers right to take advantage. That's what this bill does.
The new government's approach to climate change has been welcomed here and abroad.
Our friends and allies have, frankly, been frustrated with Australia's approach in the past and welcomed a government determined to play our role and seize the opportunities that good climate policy represents.
Our country and our parliament have wasted long enough delaying and denying.
The time for action is now; we don't have a second to waste.
The Australian people voted for action on climate change on 21 May. Now is the time for the parliament to vote for action. I commend the bill to the House.