Independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall – who succeeded in ending the political career of climate science denier and former prime minister Tony Abbott – will propose a climate change bill to federal parliament in 2020 that would create a plan for Australia to achieve long term emissions reduction targets.
“We need to set out a roadmap for Australia to become a low carbon economy without all the fear mongering and misinformation,” Steggall said. “The big question all sensible Australians are asking is how? This is why we need a Climate Change Act to set out a legislative framework.”
The crossbench MP said that the legislation would be modelled on similar legislation passed by the UK Parliament, and would establish an independent body to advise the government on how to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The legislation would also require the government to produce an annual report, detailing the progress being made towards reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The UK parliament passed climate change legislation in 2008, which required the UK Government to report on its greenhouse gas emissions and established the independent Committee on Climate Change to advise the government on its progress towards reducing emissions.
As part of the package the carbon tax reforms, the Gillard government established the independent Climate Change Authority to advise the government. However, the authority has played a much diminished role under the Coalition government, having been starved of resources, despite government legislation seeking its abolition being blocked by the Senate, and ignored by the government.
The parliament of New Zealand is currently considering similar legislation earlier this year and set itself a target of achieving zero net emissions by 2050, with the legislation expected to pass by the end of the year.
Steggall also said that it is now time for Australia to undertake a comprehensive and independent review of the economic impacts of climate change, and should be modelled on the UK’s 2006 Stern Review, which at the time found climate change impacts could grow to 20% of global gross domestic product.
“We need to know the economic implications of climate change to all sectors of the economy. In circumstances where some argue that we should not, or cannot, act, to prevent climate change, then let’s be very clear about the cost of doing nothing or not enough. Business as usual is not a zero sum game.” Steggall said.
Steggall defeated Abbott in the Sydney seat of Warringah at the 2019 federal election and ran on a platform of ambitious action on climate change and active support for renewable energy.
The announcement from Steggall follows the Morrison government using its majority to prevent a vote on a motion declaring a climate change emergency drafted by Greens MP Adam Bandt, and which received the backing of the Labor party and most of the crossbench MPs.
An official e-petition call on the parliament to declare a climate emergency closed on Wednesday after collecting more than 370,000 signatures, smashing the record for an official e-petition. The petitioner has requested that Zali Steggall table the petition during next week’s parliamentary sitting.
Steggall called on parties to allow a conscience vote on the declaration of climate emergency, a move that may attract the support of moderate Liberal MPs, including those who have joined a Parliamentary Friends of Climate Action group established by crossbench MPs.
“It’s so important that everyone is accountable in this place. We’ve heard so much over the last 10 to 15 years on this issue. You actually all now need to be accountable. Stand up and be counted,” Steggall said in a speech to Parliament.
“Have a conscience vote, all of you, on both sides. Put your colours to the mast of where you stand on this issue. We saw it happen with marriage equality. We need to start to see it happening on climate change.”
Under the Liberal-National coalition government, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased every year since 2014.