Obviously, we can’t mitigate the impacts of higher temperatures and extreme weather events on our own. But that’s why we have to take genuine action in partnership with other countries. Hiding behind inadequate emission-reduction targets, make-believe policies and emissions accounting tricks won’t fool anyone.
The emissions-reduction policies enacted during the Rudd and Gillard governments were effective. Many are still in place, including renewable energy legislation and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
The evidence now clearly shows that the carbon price, which was in operation for two years between 2012 and 2014, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and did not harm jobs or the economy. Since it was repealed by the Abbott government, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing.
Many business people were not fans of the emissions-reduction measures I put in place eight years ago. It’s remarkable how quickly this has changed as the risks have become more evident. The damaging economic consequences of more intense and extreme weather events and bushfires are becoming increasingly clear. Every area of economic activity is impacted: agriculture, tourism, energy, water security, infrastructure and insurance are just a few obvious examples.
The scale of the challenge demands mature, intelligent national leadership – leadership that sees the economic, investment and employment opportunities in low emissions technologies rather than fostering fear of change.
By stating all of this, some will say I am engaging in partisan politics. I say that’s rubbish.
These issues are too important for partisan political games, bigger than party politics. We are confronting a crisis that demands national action as part of a co-ordinated international response.
In Australian politics, a relatively small group of science-deniers and appallingly irresponsible political opportunists have successfully dominated the policy response to climate change in recent years. We all know who they are. In Australia’s national interest, in the interest of future generations, this group should be marginalised.
The way to achieve this is simple. All members of parliament, state or federal, lower or upper house, who respect climate science and who accept responsibility for taking action should stand together. Climate change is an issue requiring politicians to rise above factional allegiances, party affiliations and short-term political opportunism. It requires the marginalisation of those politicians who deny the science, misrepresent the facts and obstruct rational policy responses.
I am certain that a majority of the members of each of our parliaments – drawn from across all political parties and independents – respect climate science and support genuine policy action. They should simply join forces on the floor of our parliaments over this one critical intergenerational issue. If a Prime Minister, a Premier, a Minister or anyone else find themselves in the minority – so be it. They will have chosen to put themselves on the wrong side of history.
There is ample precedent where parliamentarians of different political affiliation have joined together in the national interest. It is needed again now. A start could be made by legislating the National Energy Guarantee that was developed by the Turnbull government.
Members of the community outside Parliament can help make this happen. At last year’s election the seat of Warringah demonstrated what could be achieved when a groundswell of people say enough is enough. Australia is a parliamentary democracy. It is up to each and every one of us to hold our politicians to account for the stance they take as individual parliamentarians.
Greg Combet was a Federal Minister in the Gillard and Rudd Governments.
Greg Combet is chairman of Industry Super Australia