Climate Change

28 Sep 2011 archivespeech

This speech is to address the climate change motion, which is in two parts: one referencing the document The Critical Decade report and specifically referring to 'South Australian Impacts'; and, secondly, calling on the state government to intensify its efforts to respond to the challenge of climate change.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (21:00): I rise to address this motion, which is in two parts: one referencing the document The Critical Decade report and specifically referring to 'South Australian Impacts'; and, secondly, calling on the state government to intensify its efforts to respond to the challenge of climate change. The issues relating to climate change are very complex and cross a lot of portfolios. The largest source, particularly in Australia, is from our energy production. There are also significant emissions from transport, agriculture, changes to land use clearance and from waste. That involves a lot of different portfolios, notably energy and mineral resources, agriculture and the environment. There are often a number of different ways this topic is tackled.

The Critical Decade report has been published by the Climate Commission, an independent body funded through the federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, established in February 2011. The purpose of The Critical Decade report, released in May this year, is explained thus:

To review the current scientific knowledge base on climate change, particularly with regard to (i) the underpinning it provides for the formulation of policy and (ii) the information it provides on the risks of a changing climate to Australia.

The report refers to evidence of increases in surface air temperature, ocean temperature, decreases in sea and polar ice sheets, and sea level rises linked to human causation through increased carbon dioxide emissions.

For the record, I say that I am certainly not a sceptic. I understand the scientific process and it is one for which I have great respect. I am disappointed at some of the opprobrium (if I can use that word) that is often directed at the scientific community, which I think is completely unfair. The report sources data from the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which observed in 2007 that:

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas connections.

The report states that this position is further strengthened by more recent research and refers to it. The fundamental finding of the report is that we are living in the decade where decreases in the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted are an absolute necessity so that our future way of life is not dramatically changed by the impacts of climate change. It is to these potential results that the second report mentioned in the motion is relevant—'South Australian Impacts'.

The three most significant impacts for our state are: increased heats wave periods resulting in heat-related illness and death, particularly among the elderly; changing rainfall patterns, with less participation and therefore more droughts; and coastal flooding. My federal colleague, the shadow minister for climate action, environment and heritage, the Hon. Greg Hunt, in his media release responding to this report stated that:

The Coalition welcomes the review and update of the climate science contained in the Climate Commission's report...

The Coalition recognises that the world is warming, and that humans are having an impact on that warming.

There is bipartisan support in Australia in support of the science of climate change, as presented in this report. There is also bipartisan support for the target of cutting emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 on an unconditional basis.

However, the release goes on to confirm that supporting the report does not equate to supporting a carbon tax. Given the hour of the evening I will not speak at length, as I might have, but I refer to the Coalition's direct action plan, which I understand was actually endorsed by the Climate Institute as the most effective means of reducing CO2 emissions.

The direct action plan of the Coalition focused on a number of things, including soil carbons and an emissions reduction fund which would assist business and industry, and referred to the planting of additional trees in public spaces, being mindful of the increase in cost of living. It also referred to our record.

This government, in particular, often likes to claim credit for renewable energy; however, the world's first mandatory renewable energy target was actually established by the Coalition government, which provided a renewable energy market with tradable certificates which has stimulated some $3.5 billion of investment in renewable energy technology since its introduction in 2001. I say that because I think it is unfair that this government continually claims credit for what has taken place in the renewable energy space, when a lot of that has occurred thanks to John Howard.

I refer back to the debate we had in this place in relation to the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Bill. This bill was pushed fairly quickly through the parliamentary session in 2007, and those of us on this side of the chamber, as well as number of the crossbenchers, including the mover of this motion, were very annoyed that it occurred at that pace. We had trouble getting information about the level of greenhouse gas emissions that had been calculated by the local agency, and at that stage we were very mindful that a lot of this was rhetoric rather than reality.

We had the issue of whether we should have interim targets or not, and my colleague the Hon. David Ridgway moved an amendment that we should establish an interim target. We then had amendments from the mover of this motion to increase the renewable energy target for South Australia, which at that stage Labor did not support. We also had an amendment from the Hon. Sandra Kanck to require the minister to report on any determination the minister makes on those targets. The government did not support the amendment but it passed because of the good work of the crossbenchers and the opposition. My colleague the Hon. David Ridgway moved an amendment to make the CSIRO report on targets, which was passed without the government's support. He also moved an amendment relating to the regulation of the council to provide independent advice to the minister.

Those things were all done to improve the transparency of our system, and I note that that piece of legislation was due to be reviewed this year—and it has not been. I certainly will not support the amendment of the Hon. Mr Hunter. If I had decided to make an amendment to the original motion to ensure that it reflected the views of the Liberal Party, where the Hon. Mr Hunter suggests we leave out the words 'intensify its efforts to respond', I would say 'intensify sincere efforts to respond'. However, I will not be doing that in the interests of process. With those comments, I indicate that we support the motion as it was initially moved.