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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5261

Senator PRATT (7:15 PM) —I have but a few moments to make my remarks about the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and I want to highlight the fact that it is the second pillar of the government’s comprehensive strategy to tackle climate change and prepare Australia for transition to a low-carbon future. It provides for an expanded renewable energy target, which we hope is going to accelerate the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies in Australia. To drive this expansion, we know liable entities are going to be required to purchase renewable energy certificates or face the shortfall charge, thus providing the incentive to drive investment in renewable energy. We are looking for a much-needed boost to the renewable energy sector when it is most needed.

The first pillar in the Rudd government’s comprehensive strategy to tackle climate change is of course the CPRS, which is designed to ensure that the Australian economy shifts towards a low-carbon future over the near to medium to long term by putting a price on carbon and a cap on emissions that tightens over time. Indeed, the RET and the CPRS are designed to work together. Our attempts to fast-track the renewable energy industry now, using the RET, will prove fruitless if we do not ensure a sustainable market into the future for renewables—by establishing a price mechanism for carbon through the CPRS—that is going to work over the long term. We need both if we are to prepare for the low-carbon future that we hope and believe is coming. We hope and believe this low-carbon future is coming, because the only alternative is unthinkable: a future devastated by disastrous climate change.

The Department of Climate Change recently released a report entitled Climate change 2009: faster change, more serious risks, which synthesises the latest science on climate change and its implications. As the title of the report implies, the latest science indicates that the world’s climate is changing faster than previously thought. It shows that, while uncertainties remain about some aspects of climate science, most of these uncertainties operate in one direction—in short, the bulk of the risks is on the down side: the risks that rising sea levels pose to Australian cities, concentrated so heavily on our coastline; the risks to Australian agriculture from reduced rainfall, especially in the Murray-Darling Basin; the risks to the welfare of Australian people from extreme weather related events, such as flash floods, bushfires and heatwaves; and the risks to our iconic national heritage, most particularly the Great Barrier Reef.

The latest science also reinforces the fact that climate change is not linear. We are confronting potential tipping points, and thus there is a critical need to avoid the risks of crossing dangerous thresholds—by taking action now to reduce our greenhouse pollution. The latest science confirms Lord Nicholas Stern’s conclusion:

There is a large probability of a devastating outcome …

Now, that, senators, is too great a risk for this nation to face, it is too great a risk for the globe to face, and this Senate must get on with the job of not only supporting the bill before us for a renewable energy target but also committing to cap Australia’s emissions and a trading scheme that provides us with a vehicle to do that. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Debate interrupted.