Proposed federal government legislation that would lock in a net-zero emissions target of 2050 for Australia has been put on the back-burner this week, in response to the unfolding Coronavirus crisis.
Independent member for Warringah in New South Wales Zali Steggall, said on Monday evening that she had decided to defer presentation of the Climate Change Bill from next Monday to a later date.
“The developing situation with COVID-19 is presenting a challenge to our community and our nation, the scale of which we have never encountered before,” Steggall said.
“It is right that this emerging health crisis take precedence at this time. Our leaders need to focus on best preparation and response and the public need to be focused on looking out for each other and their own personal wellbeing.”
Steggall’s push for a “sensible and bipartisan” policy approach to climate action in Australia – based out of the inner-Sydney electorate previously held by long-time climate denier and former PM Tony Abbott – has been a welcome force in the federal policy arena.
Stegall had planned to call for a conscience vote when the legislation was presented in Parliament on March 23 as a Private Member’s Bill, and had hoped to win the support of moderates within the Liberal party who argue more action can be taken to limit the causes of climate change.
The proposed legislation, which is being co-sponsored by fellow independents Rebekah Sharkie, Helen Haines and Andrew Wilkie, would establish a framework for a 2050 zero net emissions target using independent expert advice and modelled on similar legislation introduced overseas.
As Steggall said in February, “the devastating bushfires that ripped through Australia over summer; the drought; and our deteriorating air pollution have shown how the impacts of climate change are a real threat to our way of life.
“It is time to take the party politics out of climate policy. It is a matter of principle that we should all be committed to a safer future. …Now is the time for a rational approach to climate change.”
Steggall didn’t put forward a new date for the Bill’s presentation, but said on Monday that she remained as dedicated as ever to the need for Australia to take “urgent and sensible action” on climate change.
“This current health crisis demonstrates just how inter-connected our world is and there is real danger in disregarding science or in treating the environment with disdain,” she said.
“The Climate Change Bill campaign will remain active and I will be continuing my discussions with all sides of politics about how we achieve a sensible plan for the future.”
The shelving of the Bill follows a raft of postponements late last week of major clean energy industry events around Australia hosted by the likes of the Clean Energy Council, the Smart Energy Council and the Energy Efficiency Council, and more have followed on Monday.