Climate change is categorically not a good thing, and we need to get serious about responding to it - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Climate change is categorically not a good thing, and we need to get serious about responding to it


Read the full speech below. 

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (11:01):  I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that the:

(a) last three years have seen an unprecedented global coral bleaching event which has had a devastating impact on many coral reefs ecosystems around the world, including our own Great Barrier Reef (GBR); and

(b) World Heritage Committee:

 (i) met in early July in Poland and expressed its 'utmost concern'  regarding the 'serious impacts from coral bleaching that have affected World Heritage properties' ; and

 (ii) noted that the most widely reported impacts were on the GBR and called on all States Parties to undertake ' the most ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement' ;

(2) recognises that:

(a) the World Heritage Centre released the first global scientific assessment of the impact of climate change on World Heritage coral reefs;

(b) the assessment found that it is a well established conclusion of international peer reviewed literature that limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels provides a chance of retaining coral-dominated communities for many reef locations around the globe;

(c) the assessment also found that the GBR will start to experience severe coral bleaching twice per decade by 2035, a mere

18 years away; and

(d) this frequency of bleaching will not allow coral reefs to recover, putting the survival of the GBR in danger along with the 64,000 jobs that are dependent on it; and

(3) calls on the Government to:

(a) urgently adopt a clean energy target that is fully consistent with Australia' s obligations within the World Heritage Convention to protect the outstanding universal value of the GBR World Heritage area; and

(b) abandon plans for a $1 billion loan through the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility to Adani to help establish one of the world' s largest coal mines.

Coral bleaching is a significant problem for the Great Barrier Reef and therefore for my state of Queensland, our nation and the world, given the international significance of the Great Barrier Reef. Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be aware there have been back-to-back severe bleaching incidents across the Great Barrier Reef, one in 2017 and one in 2016. It's unprecedented for there to be back-to-back severe coral bleaching episodes on the Great Barrier Reef. We also had significant episodes of bleaching back in 2002 and in 1998.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, based at James Cook University, has noted that, with only one degree Celsius of warming, we have had four bleaching events over 19 years, so it is a very concerning challenge ahead of us when it comes to responding to climate change. The back-to-back incidents are particularly worrying because the reef needs cooler water in order to be able to survive. With the heating episode and then the bleaching, what needs to happen for that coral not to die is for the algae to be able to recolonise the coral. But it can't do that if the water temperature doesn't drop. Back-to-back bleaching incidents are particularly concerning. The centre of excellence has said that we have now had bleaching affect around 1,500 kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef. About two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has been impacted. The centre has described huge tracts of the Great Barrier Reef being affected by this coral bleaching episode.

Of course the key driver of this bleaching we're seeing is climate change. It's the warming of the planet. It's very important that, as a parliament, we come together and work towards responding to climate change. That means getting serious about fossil fuels. It means getting serious about renewable energy, and, of course, it also means getting serious about policies that are aimed at dealing with climate change and not aimed at denying climate change.

That's why so many of us were gravely disappointed when the former Prime Minister the member for Warringah addressed the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate denialist organisation. He turned up and not only engaged in the climate scepticism that is their stock and trade but also suggested that perhaps global warming might be a good thing, because 'cold snaps are bad for people.' It is just gobsmacking that we have someone who previously led the Australian government as the Prime Minister now openly engaging with the denialists and arguing that perhaps global warming is a good thing. It's not a good thing. It's categorically not a good thing, and we need to get serious about responding to it.

In Australia, one way that we can get serious about responding to climate change is of course to address the record amount of tree clearing that has been happening in Queensland. The Queensland Labor government, the Palaszczuk government, has sought to take action in respect of tree clearing. You would be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that tree clearing started with abandon under the previous Newman Liberal National government in Queensland, and we are now seeing vast amounts of tree clearing.

I've got the Gabba in my electorate, and an area of that size is being cleared on a regular basis throughout the day. This is something that I think most Queenslanders and most Australians would be horrified at, yet the Queensland parliament—and of course the Labor government is a minority government in Queensland—stopped the Queensland government's moves to put the brakes on tree clearing. It's going to take a majority Labor government in Queensland to respond to tree clearing. That's why I'm so keen for people to get behind the Palaszczuk government, so we can deal with tree clearing.

I also think it's important that we as a nation look at where we put taxpayers' money when it comes to investment. There's a lot of discussion about whether the Liberal government might invest $1 billion of taxpayers' money in the Adani project. I have said publicly, and I say again: this is not a project that should receive one cent of public funds. Public funding should not be going to subsidising the Adani project that this government is considering supporting. It absolutely should not do that. The government should instead be investing public money in mitigating climate change. It should instead be investing public money in doing something about the Great Barrier Reef bleaching that we're seeing. It certainly should not be encouraging coalition conservative governments at the state level to allow rampant tree clearing.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Buchholz):  Is the motion seconded?

Ms Vamvakinou:  I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

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