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Taking action on Climate Change - read more

North Shore residents are asking if New South Wales will ever get around to taking serious action to address climate change, if that day ever comes, will we still be paying for the this Government’s legacy of six lane motorways, tunnels, flyovers and toll roads, limiting our capacity to future-proof our towns and cities against fire, flood and volatile extremes of temperature.

What has the Government done to address climate change?

The Government has promoted rooftop solar for some years, as the way to actively reduce the impact of coal fired electricity generation. Rather than take on their friends in the coal industry, they have offered home owners modest and diminishing financial incentives to invest in rooftop solar.

Rather than promoting a cynical strategy to appease community concern at the burning of fossil fuels, it would have been cheaper and more efficient for governments to take action to shift the grid to renewables. The Morrison and New South Wales Governments sat on their hands, they proposed no legislation, regulations, incentives or consultation with suppliers to transform the grid. That would have been a far cheaper and more efficient option for industry and for homeowners. After decades of dithering, the move to renewables is beginning, and government dishonesty has been exposed.

Before the massive bushfires in 2016-l7, the Government cut $121 million from the National Parks and Wildlife Service budget, removing around one hundred rangers. Three years later, the budget was cut by another $80 million. The Black Summer wildfires that followed left five million hectares of land burnt out, including two million hectares or 40% of our National Parks, and 875,000 hectares of State forests and their wildlife with damage that could take more than a generation to restore.

In New South Wales, koalas are in serious decline, their status was lifted in 2022 from vulnerable to endangered. Regardless, the Government approved 16,000 new homes in Sydney’s last koala habitat on the Cumberland Plain; the National Party opposes protection for tree species vital to their survival. A proposed new housing estate, uphill from Lismore, is to be located in the Goonellabah habitat of the local koala population, placing them at risk.

In November 2016, when the Paris Agreement came into force, the New South Wales Government promised to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Since then, the Government has approved twenty-five new coal and gas projects. These new fossil fuel projects are expected to release at least three billion tonnes of greenhouse gas - six times more than Australia currently emits in a year.

The average Australian carbon footprint is estimated at around 15 tonnes of CO2 per year — considerably more than the recommended two tonnes. Premier Perrottet has not disagreed with his top bureaucrats urging that: Australia needs an explosive post-World War-II style immigration surge that could bring in two million people over five years to rebuild the economy. Calculate our emissions with an extra two million people.

On 23 December 2022, the Treasurer announced an ambitious new target for the State, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2035 and net zero by 2050. His reasoning was that: New South Wales can attract international capital and talent if we seize the opportunity to be at the forefront of the low carbon global economy. He added that the government would not introduce any new policies to meet this new goal: We’ve got policies that are legislated in place that will meet those targets.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted the Government’s own Net Zero Emissions Dashboard suggested New South Wales would fail to meet its earlier 2030 target of a 50% reduction, putting its new goal for 2035 well out of reach.

How can Parliament tackle climate change?

Parliament can demand the Government takes urgent action, with strong policies backed by law; that it maps and mitigates recurring damage of fire and floods across the State; that it develops scientifically based programs to address climate change and to defend both ours and future generations against its impacts.

Parliament can ensure the Government invests in long-term action in cooperation with Local and Shire Councils to build safe and resilient communities across the State; to manage and contain bushfire and floodplain risks, to implement buy-backs and relocation and to ban development on vulnerable land.

Parliament can ensure the Government drafts transition plans with local Councils for those districts currently reliant on coal, oil and gas extraction.

Parliament can move that the Government table a comprehensive roadmap to enhance community resilience to anticipated climate change and its impacts: fires, droughts and flood, and volatile extremes of temperature.

Parliament can commit to the protection our native flora and fauna, to promoting the regeneration of country damaged by floods and fire and to supporting efforts to reverse the trend towards extinction of our native species. Our poor and deteriorating performance has resulted in Australia having the worst mammal extinction rate in the world. I will recommend a reference to the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the protection of our vulnerable flora and fauna, to report with recommendations by the end of 2023.

Parliament can ensure the Government imposes royalties on mining to create a sovereign fund dedicated to generating green jobs in mining communities.

Parliament can support and progress the economic opportunities that accompany energy transition.

Parliament can do all these things, but it needs Members free of party constraints, to raise issues, to ask questions and, at times, to shame the Government into action. I am keen and ready to take up the challenge of getting action to mitigate climate change onto the next Government’s agenda with new programs funded from its first 2023-24 budget.

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