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Response to Annual Climate Change Statement

On 8th February 2023, I gave this speech in response to the government's Annual Climate Change Statement.

At the beginning of this year the world's climate scientists at the WMO formally declared that the last eight years had been the hottest on record. This record heat coincides with the highest ever levels of coal and gas burnt in a single year, trapping more heat in our atmosphere and oceans. Our home is burning before our very eyes—sometimes literally—and the government is currently acting like everything is fine, despite the fact that it's abundantly clear we are in an emergency. We know what is causing this crisis: ultimately, it is the burning of coal, oil and gas. But, really, on that front nothing is changing; in fact, it is going to get worse. The Albanese government, like the Morrison government before them, want to add more fuel to this devastating fire.

One of the documents tabled with Minister Bowen's Annual Climate Change Statement was the department's Australia's emissions projections 2022 report. The document lists seven more projects that they are expecting will open over the next seven years—seven more! There's the carbon bomb of the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory, which could release up to four to seven more times more emissions than Adani; Woodside's Scarborough and Browse fields in WA and their LNG terminal on the Burrup Peninsula; Santos' Narrabri fracking fields; Shell's Crux field near Darwin; and a series of other unspecified fracking fields in Queensland. We know that the release of methane and gas is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and in fact methane is over 80 times more potent than CO2 when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere. We also know, by the way, that Woodside and Santos were some of the biggest donors to the Labor Party in the lead-up to this federal election.

This is straight-up climate denial. If you understand and appreciate that the burning of coal, oil and gas is what is driving climate change and your government's response is to project the opening of new coal, oil and gas projects over the next 10 years, then that is tantamount to, functionally, behaving as if you see no connection between the opening of new coal and gas projects and the driving of climate change. The International Energy Agency has said that to meet net zero by 2050—our target put into law last year—not one new project can be built. But the Albanese government isn't just satisfied with one—or seven. There are 111 more coal and gas projects in the pipeline to start by the end of this decade.

But for the government even that is not enough. In the most recent federal budget, we saw over $40 billion of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry listed over the next four years. There's not enough money for dental into Medicare. There's not enough money to build enough social and affordable homes for everyone who needs one. There's not enough money to bring mental health into Medicare or tackle the cost-of-living crisis, but there is $40 billion for some of the wealthiest multinational corporations in the world.

You can't have it both ways. You do actually have to choose. Do you want to achieve your legislated climate targets, or do you want new coal and gas? By the way, in the latest climate report, the government's not even on track for their weak 43 per cent emissions reduction target. Let's be clear. The world is on track to shoot past the 1½ degree limit by the end of the decade; in fact, we're on track for 2.7 degrees, which will throw our societies into chaos.

Indeed, the life we know today will be unrecognisable to our children. We're on track for 2.7 degrees of warming and we'll be getting over 1½ degrees of warming by the end of this decade, which means we'll see more bushfires, floods, natural disasters, collapses in parts of our crucial food systems, rising sea levels, the movement of hundreds of millions if not, ultimately, billions of climate refugees displaced from their homes, and the collapse of a lot of the systems that our world currently relies on to feed, house and protect the billions of people on this planet.

Over the last few years Australia has seen a preview of what this is going to look like in events such as the bushfires in 2019 emerging straight into the floods. After the floods I remember hauling furniture out of poor and working-class people's homes in parts of my electorate, and knowing that they didn't have enough money to go anywhere else. I knew that they had to crowdfund just to get enough money to find another home. Those are the sorts of direct material consequences of decisions that people in this place make when giving money to coal and gas corporations to allow the opening up of new coal, oil and gas projects. These events are a direct consequence of decisions that the government has already made, including approving a coalmine that will mine and export coal past 2060, according to the approval.

If we are still exporting coal and gas past 2050, we can forget about even 2.7 degrees of warming—we'll be blowing well past that. I don't know how you logically have in your heads, on the one hand, the idea that it is sustainable to continue to expand the export of coal and gas while literally assuming that under your government's policies we'll be exporting coal and gas past 2050 and, on the other hand, talk solemnly about the consequences of climate change. You're causing that; that is a consequence of your government's policies.

Another issue to consider is that beyond the $40 billion of subsidies, we know that in the last reportable tax year the top 20 coal, oil and gas corporations made $150 billion in revenue. Can anyone take a guess at how much tax they paid on that revenue? It wasn't zero dollars, which I was surprised by; it was $30. Not only do we have the subsidy, not only do we have the knowledge that the coal, oil and gas corporations are driving this climate crisis but we literally have government policies that allow these corporations to destroy our planet and make war profits on their huge revenues whilst we're not taxing them properly.

This government should recognise that we need to rapidly transition out of coal, oil and gas. In the years that we are transitioning, the government should make those corporations pay their fair share in tax. Imagine if we had the sort of sovereign wealth fund that Norway has, a trillion dollars that we could put towards transitioning the affected regional communities. With a trillion dollars we could invest in health and education services that those communities need and revive manufacturing in those communities. Right now the planet is cooking and the money made by those corporations is going into either the coffers of the major parties in the form of donations or the pockets of shareholders.

Over the next few years Australians will increasingly realise that the behaviour of this government is hardly different from the behaviour of the previous government, when you think about the government subsidising the opening up and exporting of coal, oil and gas. That is what the Greens will be focusing on in the next few years. When legislation covering the government's safeguard mechanism comes up for debate in parliament, we'll be focusing on the fact that this still does not deal with the opening up of new coal, oil and gas reserves.

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