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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 13924

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (16:06): The member for Makin made a couple of really important points in his contribution. He said, 'Climate change is intergenerational theft.' We have an obligation to future generations. I appeal to this House and to people outside to understand the consequences of allowing climate change to go on in the way that climate scientists have projected. If you look at the issue of climate refugees, think about what has been going on in Europe recently on the back of population growth in Africa and the conflict in Syria. It is one thing to think about climate refugees in the few thousands from Kiribati or Tuvalu, but in low-lying areas like Bangladesh and so on tens of millions of people could face their land being made uninhabitable. The consequences of that, frankly, are unimaginable. We have an obligation to make sure that does not happen.

The member for Makin also said that Australia is prone to extreme weather events. He is exactly right. We have had that dreadful situation in the last few days in relation to bushfires in South Australia and Western Australia. The climate scientists are telling us that Australia will be subject to more frequent and more severe bushfires, droughts, cyclones and floods. So we have to understand that this means us.

By contrast with the member for Makin's considered contribution, the member for Lyons was totally wrong in his comments about the performance of this government compared with the previous Labor government. In fact, under Labor's period of government carbon pollution levels dropped by eight per cent, whereas between now and 2020 carbon pollution levels will increase by six per cent, such that the pollution level will be four per cent above the 2000 level in 2020.

The fact is that Australia's emissions are going up. I know that the government seeks to count the carryover period before 2012. The point about that, as has been made by Lyndon Schneiders from the Wilderness Society and others, is that the decision of the Beattie Labor government to ban the clearing of old-growth and high-conservation value vegetation was crucial in Australia being able to meet its Kyoto protocol commitments concerning greenhouse gas emissions. In 2010-11 the 90,000 hectares of approved clearing in Queensland released 21.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. But then along came the Newman government, which tripled the amount of clearing. This amounted to releasing something like 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. To give this some perspective, the federal government's Emissions Reduction Fund burned through $660 million of taxpayers' money to purchase greenhouse gas abatement of 47 million tonnes. So for all the money and all the hype around the Emissions Reduction Fund it was all undone by just one year of land clearing in Queensland.

There is some good news, particularly internationally. We will go to Paris now with all major emitters having domestic policies. One hundred and forty countries have renewable policies. Global power sector investment in renewable energy is now larger than in fossil fuels. We have carbon pricing in places such as South Korea and beyond, and we have regulation on major sources being much more common—for example, in the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada and China.

I was also encouraged yesterday to attend a briefing on the Renewable energy superpower report prepared by the Zero Carbon Australia project. That made it clear that renewable energy and energy efficiency will attract more investment over the next 20 years than the development of coal, gas and oil combined, that energy self-sufficiency will increase and the international energy trade will decrease, that abundant high-quality renewable resources will be the future energy advantage, that energy-intensive industries will migrate to nations with low-cost renewable energy and that Australia's economic renewable energy resource potential is greater than its coal, gas and oil resources combined.

The government needs to be willing to do more in Paris and more when it comes back from Paris in moving to renewable energy. We can achieve 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 in accordance with Labor's policy.