More than 100 leading Australian businesses, industry groups and community organisations have issued a joint endorsement of climate change legislation being proposed by independent MP Zali Steggall, saying it was critical Australia seized the opportunity to act on climate change and commit to a zero carbon target.
The group, which includes Unilever, Atlassian, the Australian Medical Association, as well as a large number of investors, have issued a joint letter to members of the federal parliament in support of the Climate Change Bill being re-introduced into parliament by Steggall on Monday.
The bill would commit Australia to stronger emissions reduction targets and would legislate a target of zero net emissions by 2050.
Signatories to the letter includes a number of Australia’s leading industry bodies, representing the energy, health, environment and investment groups, sustainably minded businesses as well as a number of Australia’s leading investors including superannuation funds and wealth managers.
In the open letter, the group of said that it was a critical time to act on climate change and that Australia’s response to Covid-19 must be aligned with also working towards decarbonising Australia’s economy.
“With time to address global emissions disappearing, we must address both COVID-19 and climate change simultaneously. However, if we act decisively on both, Australia will benefit from added growth and employment opportunities,” the open letter says.
“The Climate Change (Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020 is a sensible national response to the challenge of climate change. The core pillars of a net zero target by 2050 (with the ability to be ratcheted up in line with the most recent science), national risk assessments and adaptation plans, technology readiness assessment and an independent advisory commission have been endorsed by peak associations across sectors.”
“We are calling on all members of the Federal Parliament to consider and adopt this bill in the national interest. We must ensure that Australia has a comprehensive bipartisan law to address the challenge of our times. If we get this right, we can ensure a safe and prosperous future for all.”
Steggall, who ousted former prime minister and climate policy antagonist Tony Abbott from the seat of Warringah at the 2019 federal election, has been working on the development of the Climate Change Bill, which is modelled on similar legislation passed by parliaments in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The bill would pair a commitment to achieving zero net emissions with the creation of an independent expert commission to provide the federal government with advice on how that target can be achieved.
Steggall will re-introduce the bill into federal parliament on Monday, following further consultation with a range of expert bodies, and will be seconded by fellow independent MP Rebekha Sharkie. Steggall had delayed earlier plans to table the bill to allow the parliament to focus on the immediate response to Covid-19.
Co-founder of Australian tech giant Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes said that Australia had a duty to act on climate change. Cannon-Brookes has been an outspoken advocate for Australia’s clean energy transition and is a lead investor in a massive $20 billion Sun Cable venture seeking to export Australian solar power into Asia.
“We need to commit to a net zero carbon economy for the sake of our kids and our planet. We have the opportunity to be a pace setter on the issue and improve our economy and our planet,” Cannon-Brookes said.
In joining the joint letter endorsing the climate change bill, CEO of Unilever Australia, Nicky Sparshott, said that it was crucial that bipartisan agreement was found on Australia’s long-term emissions reduction targets.
“If adopted, the Bill would set the direction for Australian businesses, give clarity to planning and create the right context for change,” Sparshott said. “If we don’t take a bipartisan approach to climate action and set targets now, we risk falling behind the rest of the world and compromising the future safety and prosperity of our country.”
Steggall welcomed the endorsement of the bill, which will also establish an independent climate change commission to advise the federal government on the appropriate steps towards achieving a transition to zero emissions.
“Australian organisations want policy certainty and stability. Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time and the warnings are coming from every sector, from private investment, banking, health, the environment and our trading partners,” Steggall said.
“As the rest of the world is charging forward and committing to Net Zero by 2050, Australia risks being left behind,” she said. “This includes countries such as UK, Japan, South Korea, Germany and France that have all committed to Net Zero by 2050. It is time Australia follows suit.”