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ABSTAINED – Motions — Climate Change

Larissa Waters

I seek leave to move a motion relating to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's AR6 s ynthesis_ _r eport__: climate change 2023, as circulated.

Leave not granted.

From the contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion to the 6th IPCC synthesis report.

The Greens are suspending standing orders in both chambers today to discuss an incredibly depressing and landmark report that was released overnight, and which is the last wake-up call for this parliament and, frankly, every other parliament around this whole planet. The findings of this report are no surprise, but they are incredibly challenging. The motion that we have moved today notes the overnight release of the synthesis report relating to the climate emergency, and it notes the statement by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that there can be no new coal, oil or gas projects in Australia—and that in fact Australia and other developed nations must phase out coal by 2030. It calls on the government to heed the calls of the IPCC and the UN Secretary-General, and to stop approving new coal and gas projects.

The synthesis report shows that we're already at 1.1 degrees of warning. It also says that projected emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure will see us blow any chance of constraining warming to 1½ degrees. It says that the choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres put it beautifully when he said: 'Humanity is on thin ice—and that ice is melting fast.' The climate time bomb is ticking. Today's IPCC report is a how-to guide to diffuse the climate time bomb; it is a survival guide for humanity. It shows that the 1½-degree limit is achievable, but it will take a quantum leap in climate action. The report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country, by every sector and on every time frame. Still quoting here from the Secretary-General:

Specifically: No new coal, the phasing out of coal by 2030 in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and 2040 in all other countries.

Ending all international public and private funding of coal.

Ensuring net-zero electricity generation by 2035 for all developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world.

Ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas—consistent with the findings of the International Energy Agency.

Stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves.

Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to a just energy transition.

Establishing a global phase down of existing oil and gas production, compatible with the 2050 global net-zero target.

I don't know how clearer this guy's going to be: no new coal, oil or gas.

Yet what have we got here in Australia? We've got 116 projects in the pipeline. They were in the pipeline under the last terrible government and they're still there under this new government. I thought we had an election, and I thought people voted for a change, so you'd kind of expect that there might be a policy change. But right now we've got 116 of these projects in the works, and the government is proposing a mechanism that's going to do sweet nothing to stop any of them. It's an absolute outrage: 116 new coal, oil and gas projects; $11 billion a year in taxpayer money going to subsidise the fossil fuel sector. I mean, seriously, are we in a budget crisis or not? There is $368 billion for nuclear subs for some phoney war, when the real war is against our planet, and it's being driven by greedy fossil fuel companies that are reaping billions for their own personal benefit.

Meanwhile, ordinary people are paying the price. We've seen floods. We've seen fires. We know what the devastation looks like, and that's at 1.1 degrees. Seriously, wake up, folks! Please go and read this report. I know we're all busy, but go and read the damned thing. If you're not awake after reading it, then honestly, I don't know how many fossil fuel donations you need to accept in order to continue to have your head in the sand.

This parliament has a decision to take. As the world's scientists have said, the decisions we take today will influence the next thousand years. This is serious, folks, and I do not want the might of the fossil fuel companies—their dirty donations and their promises of incredibly overpaid lobbying jobs after you folk leave this place—making the decisions for our nation. We have a chance to actually make a difference here. We have all the world's scientists laying out the road map for us on what to do. You can't say we weren't warned. We've had years and years of these reports. They've now synthesised it for us: no new coal, oil or gas. It's what the Greens will always fight for. You can have a discussion about how quickly we exit, and the UN says let's exit by 2030, but no new coal, oil or gas. Stop giving them public money, stop giving them approvals, stop taking their dirty donations and stop going off to work for them after you leave this place.

Katy Gallagher

I rise to make a brief contribution on the suspension of standing orders today. The government will not be supporting the suspension, but I do want to be clear that we think the issue of climate change is real and requires serious action. To start where Senator Waters finished, and to quote her, we have a chance to make a difference. Well, the government supports that, and we agree that we do have a chance to make a difference, and the most pressing opportunity we have to do that is to pass the safeguard legislation that will be coming before the parliament in the next week.

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, which was released last night, makes the case for urgent action and confirms what we already know. It puts in pretty stark terms that there is a rapidly closing window for transformative climate action, both here and around the world, and it shows that global warming has increased at an unprecedented rate over the past decade, resulting in more frequent and severe droughts and cyclones. Every region in the world is expected to face increasing risks from climate change by the 2030s. It's already at our door, and this report unfortunately just confirms yet again the wasted decade under the Liberal and Nationals governments, when they refused to accept the science, refused to take action when they were in a position to do so, and were more preoccupied with fighting each other, particularly on climate and energy policy, than with doing their job. And that's having real consequences for our nation, our region and our world.

Australians already know that they are being impacted by catastrophic climate change—severe flooding, drought, mega fires, low air quality from those fires. Every Australian has felt the ferocious effects of a warming planet, so we all know that climate change is real. Well, most of us in this chamber know that climate change is real. It is here and it's starting to have an impact. It would be great if this fortnight, instead of having suspension motions and things like that, we could actually pass the legislation that is going to give us the opportunity to start doing the work that should have been happening for years but hasn't been happening.

I accept that not everybody agrees with the detail of the design, that it is not perfect in everyone's sense, but it is a start to make a difference. If we genuinely want to make a difference, we have to start somewhere. We can't have those who want more action on climate change and those who want no action on climate change determining that nothing happens. I mean, that is the risk that we face here. We on this side have the policy design and we will continue to work with anyone in this chamber who wants to make a difference, who wants to start reducing emissions through the safeguard magnetism and through the regulation that will come down the road, and actually start doing that. That is what needs to be happening.

No four- or 10-hour debates on the IPCC report will actually do what passing the legislation that will come before this parliament will start to do if it gets the support of this chamber. The counterfactual is that it doesn't pass, that we don't reform the safeguard mechanism and that we aren't able to reduce emissions in the way that the safeguard mechanism is designed. That is the counterfactual of this chamber not supporting that legislation, that we are struck again with nothing happening. So we on this side do think that we should be progressing the most obvious, the most pressing legislation that is actually before this parliament. That will make a difference, and we can work together to do it.

We can't let those opposite, who sit there and say they support net zero by 2050—well, you used to support that anyway and you used to support the safeguard mechanism and you want to see change—sit there and block everything. The 'no-alition'—who block absolutely everything in this chamber. You are setting yourselves up to be the most obstructionist opposition in recent times—absolutely. The way you are not involving yourselves in legislation, what are you getting paid for? You come here and you don't even play yourselves into the discussions because it is the straight-up no. That's what the people who support you are getting out of this. They are getting bodies who sit in this chamber who don't participate, who don't involve themselves and who don't negotiate, and that is what has led to this policy failure, or the effect of—

Andrew McLachlan

Senator Scarr, a point of order?

Paul Scarr

The minister is reflecting generally upon members of this side of chamber, I believe, in quite a personal disorderly fashion and she should withdraw.

Andrew McLachlan

I'm not sure it quite gets that far but I would ask the minister to reflect on her comments.

Katy Gallagher

I will reflect on them but it seems to be pretty standard Senate operating procedure. But that is the opportunity that the Senate is faced with in the next little while. In the next two weeks we can start to make a difference. We can show Australians that we are taking this seriously and that we are working together to mitigate some of the risks of climate change.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 12:37 PM on 2023-03-21
Senator Pocock's vote: Abstained
Total number of "aye" votes: 11
Total number of "no" votes: 27
Total number of abstentions: 38

Adapted from information made available by