Climate Change

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE ( 18:31 : 5 ): It is no exaggeration to say that climate change is the biggest political and moral challenge of our time. It is a threat to our natural world, national security and our access to food and water. It is a threat to human rights around the globe. International bodies and politicians around the world have recognised this and made commitments to steer us away from this impending catastrophe. It is in this context that we turn to the response of the New South Wales Government. To say it is underwhelming would be an understatement. I think the Premier understands the science on human-induced climate change; the problem is her Government does not. At the end of 2016 the Coalition released two plans that it claims will help implement the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework being the Climate Change Fund Draft Strategic Plan and A Draft Plan to Save NSW Energy and Money. One can already see where this is going.

The Government is on record as saying this framework demonstrates its “ongoing commitment to action on climate change and will guide future policy and programs”. They are big words but, as usual, the devil is in the detail—and in this case, the lack of detail is plain astonishing. This is an exercise in corporate gloss, a lot of spin and very little substance. The framework and plans do not address the big questions facing New South Wales in relation to climate change, nor do they do anything other than provide more glib and superficial objectives that are impossible to assess, let alone achieve. The draft strategic plan has the excellent goal of “net-zero emissions by 2050”, which sounds great. It is exactly what the 2015 Paris Agreement aims for, but there is no pathway set out to actually achieve this goal. It is as if adding it as an aspiration gets the Government off the hook and it does not feel that it needs to achieve it. There is no information about the size of the challenge, which parts of government will make changes or who will have responsibility for getting to the goal. Simply put, there is nothing to make it happen.

The second objective of the draft strategic plan is about New South Wales being more resilient to climate change. Again, it sounds good, but the document does not say anything about resilience. To summarise, the document says bugger all on resilience. The plan does not talk about how resilient we currently are. It does not talk about threats. It does not talk about how severe climate change will be or how we will have to respond to it to make ourselves resilient. It is a very “unknown unknowns” kind of situation; it is the Donald Rumsfeld response to climate change in New South Wales.

It is hugely telling that the policy framework document does not mention the most significant sources of emissions: fossil fuels, land clearing or transport emissions. These are the three key climate challenges facing New South Wales, and none of them are even mentioned in the State’s climate change plan. The budget allocated for implementing these plans is $500 million over the next five years, and it is money we should watch closely. Of course we need to put money into addressing climate change—it is one of the first times we have seen it from a New South Wales government—but we need to know where the money is going, what it will do and how it will achieve real change. From these plans it is very hard to identify how that money will do good. The Government says its role is to:

Implement emissions savings policies that are consistent with achieving the Commonwealth Government’s interim and long-term emissions saving objectives and are fair, efficient and in the public interest

Again, this is good at eye level but, when you burrow into it, it does not mean much. It is well known that the Coalition Government at the Commonwealth level is not on track to meet its emission reduction commitment. Emissions are meant to be reduced by between 26 per cent and 28 per cent by 2030. This pretence at a State level adds to the overall untrustworthiness of the framework. In New South Wales this Government continues to approve coalmines, expansions of coalmines and extensions of coalmines. It does so with the almost unanimous support of NSW Labor. Since Paris the approval of coalmines in New South Wales has remained at about one‑quarter of all the work of the Planning Assessment Commission.

Since Paris there have been yet more applications seeking further increases in the amount of coal to be extracted each year from mine after mine, extending the life of mine after mine. That is fundamentally incompatible with addressing climate change. It is simply not good enough. The Greens will introduce to this Parliament concrete laws that require meaningful actions to address climate change. We will do this by firstly looking at the planning system—a key source of emissions within New South Wales and the most obvious place to tackle tick-a-box approvals for energy-intense development, coalmines and other big, dirty developments. We hope we can count on the support of members.

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