Media Release: Independent Bushfire Report acknowledges reality of climate change and must be call for action

The NSW Greens welcome the fact that the Independent Bushfire Inquiry has recognized the central role of climate change in the terrible fires over the last spring and summer. In addition to the evidence-based responses recommended in the report to address fire-fighting and preparedness, this report must now produce a cross-party commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2035.

Critically the report states that: “climate change as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions clearly played a role in the conditions that led up to the fires and in the unrelenting conditions that supported the fires to spread.” The report also recognises that the 2019/2020 fire season was exactly what the climate models predicted (“conditions we are seeing over south east Australia are consistent with what climate change projections have been saying will happen”).

The Greens strongly support recommendations to protect and properly resource fire fighters, to increase co-ordination among agencies and to make more resilient local communities. What is missing from both the report and the government’s response are the resources to local councils, NPWS and other land managers to enable them to deliver on the recommendations.

Greens MP and Emergency Services Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“This is a wake-up call to all politicians. It is telling us that unless we address climate change we can expect more heatwaves, reduced rainfall and longer fire seasons means catastrophic fires are likely to be a common feature in future years.

“This inquiry was limited to making recommendations for fire-fighting and fire prevention, but it is clear these will be insufficient unless serious and concerted action to address climate change is taken.

“Ad hoc and unplanned clearing and burning must not become a feature of hazard reduction. A prime cause of bushfires over the summer was unauthorised hazard reduction burns, these started hundreds of fires, many of which ended up out of control.

“It is good to see the strong recommendations for properly equipping firefighters with greatly improved personal protective equipment and 21st century fire trucks that provided greater connectivity and fire-safety,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Greens MP and environment spokesperson Cate Faehrmann said:

“Hazard reduction around towns and communities needs to be based on the best scientific studies, detailed ecological studies and with evidence that the removal of vegetation assists in fire suppression.

“We support evidence-based strategies on hazard reduction that include the best ecological evidence and incorporate Aboriginal cultural burning knowledge and expertise,” Ms Faehrmann said.

Greens Mayor for Glen Innes Carol Sparks said:

 “This report recognises that destructive land management activities are increasing fire risks. This includes acknowledging the role of logging in causing drier and more fire-prone forests. I have seen this impact in my local community.

“A sensible response to this report must include investment and research into strategies for rehydrating landscapes like regenerative agriculture and ending logging.

“From a Local Government perspective there are significant concerns about the cost shifting towards councils. Endorsing these strategies requires must come with the state government funding required to actually deliver them.

“As a mayor who stood with my community during the terrible fires I welcome the recommendations for more aerial fire-fighting resources, including night time fire-fighting, so that we give our fire crews every chance to put out fires before they become unstoppable.

“While we see the need for more resources, unless we stop runaway climate change and rapidly move towards net-zero carbon emissions no amount of fire-fighting or hazard reduction will keep us safe.

“There is a need to expand access to community resilience centres identified in the report, but also a need for funding to actually build these when they don’t exist or to upgrade existing facilities.

“Local Councils are a key part of the solution to make communities safer, access local knowledge for fire responses and to co-ordinate local emergency responses. However to achieve all these things Local Councils require more than just words, we require funds.

“It’s not responsible for the State Government to ask Local Councils to shoulder all this duty without providing the financial backing to make them happen,” Clr Sparks said.