Hanson-Young, We need a climate trigger in our environment laws

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (South Australia) Senate Speech

The Climate Change Bill 2022 is an important step forward because it acknowledges that we need to cut carbon pollution in order to put our climate on a safe footing, but it goes nowhere near enough. We know that we can’t keep opening up new coal and gas, putting more pollution into the atmosphere, if we are to stop dangerous, runaway climate change. And yet here today we see an example in the expansion of a coalmine in New South Wales on the table before the Minister for Environment and Water, waiting for her green light. I call on the minister today: if you are serious about reducing pollution, if you are serious about stopping climate change, if you are serious about protecting our environment, you will reject this coal mine application.

But, of course, the problem we have here is that our environment laws as they stand don’t even require the minister to consider the climate damage of a big project like the expansion of the largest coalmine in several years. In fact, if this coalmine is approved, it will be the largest coalmine opened since Australia signed the Paris Agreement. It will be a huge step backwards. It will make it harder for us to cut pollution. It will make it harder for us to stop the droughts, the floods and the deathly bushfires. It will make it harder for our children to know and believe and trust that their future will be one with a safe climate.

We need to fix our environment laws. We need to ensure that all approvals for these big projects—coal, gas—are assessed for their climate damage, and we need a climate trigger in our environment laws to do that. So, while this bill is an important step forward in acknowledging that our task now is to cut pollution, we need the tools in the toolbox to do it. We need the action to follow. This bill won’t deliver the action, but it does deliver the promise. The government must step up now, meet this promise and accept that coal and gas are not the way of the future. We need an investment in renewable energy, we need an investment in biodiversity and we need to start protecting the future of the next generation.

You can’t be serious about tackling climate change if you keep green-lighting new coal and gas. Our global partners understand this. The International Energy Agency understands this. The UN and comparable countries understand this. Even the Pope gets it. You can’t be serious about tackling climate change and cutting pollution if you keep making the situation worse by allowing the development of new coal and gas.

I know it is a struggle for the Labor government. I know they’ve got members within their own ranks who don’t see it like this. But sometimes politics requires pragmatism. Often, politics requires leadership. Always, politics requires courage. And here, today, there is a challenge before the environment minister herself. If you’re serious about tackling climate change and if you’re serious about the impact of this bill making one iota of a difference, you will block the application before your for the expansion of the coalmine in New South Wales, at Mount Pleasant. Send a real signal to the market and people of Australia that you are serious about reducing pollution and stopping climate change. 

Source: Parliament of Australia Date Wednesday, 7 September 2022 

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