Carbon pricing is about more than a warm, fuzzy feeling
The Australian Senate is currently debating the Government’s Clean Energy Future package and will shortly vote on these historic reforms.
Earlier this week, during debate on the legislation, I spoke about the unrivalled natural beauty of the Australian environment and landscape and of our profound relationship with the land on which we forge our lives.
We are a unique nation, and our identity stems from our landscape. We have developed our character through our values. We believe in mateship, we believe in backing the underdog and, importantly, we believe in a fair go.
It is with this in mind that I posed some questions to my colleagues this week, to consider in the debate about whether we should take action on climate change. These are questions that I feel go to the heart of who we are as a nation and a people – questions of fairness for all.
Is it fair to let our children inherit a nation with a diminished natural beauty and heritage? Is it fair to dump the burden of addressing our environmental challenges on generations to come?
Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves - is it fair to take no action on climate change?
As a parent of two young children, I naturally worry about their future. I am concerned about the economy they will grow into, about their education and about their job opportunities. But I am also concerned about the natural environment that they will inherit from us as this generation of decision-makers.
Climate change has been a concern for our country and for our planet for many years. As a nation, we have debated the impacts of climate change and the ways that we should take action to address the growing concerns for well over a decade.
Despite the small pocket of dissenters and the disagreement regarding the depth of the impact, the reality of climate change is irrefutable.
In May of this year, the Climate Change Commission delivered the strongest evidence of this to date. It found that global temperatures are rising more quickly now than ever before, with the last decade being the hottest on record.
We know that in the last 50 years the number of hot days in Australia has more than doubled. We know that sea levels have risen 20 centimetres since the 1800s and are projected to rise another 20 centimetres by 2050. And we know that the Great Barrier Reef has suffered nine major bleaching incidents in the last 31 years. Prior to that it had experienced none.
The evidence about the impact of climate change is irrefutable and the need for action is urgent.
As a nation we are responsible for about 1.5 per cent of global emissions and remain one of the world’s top 20 emitters per capita. As individuals, Australians produce more carbon pollution than any country in the developed world.
But Australia also has a reputation as a nation of doers. Of people who are not afraid to step up when the going gets tough. As such, the attitude of ‘Why bother, we are too small to make any real difference’ that those opposed to action on climate change pedal is simply not who we are as a nation.
We are better than that, and with this package of reform, this government is determined to remind every single one of us that we can make a difference.
And in making a real difference to climate change, Australians will be better off.
Economists and industry groups agree that a price on carbon is the cheapest, the most efficient and the most effective form of action.
A system where the biggest polluters will pay for every tonne of carbon they put into the atmosphere. Not hard working Australian families. Not pensioners, or small businesses or our farmers.
And with the great Australian ideal of fairness at the very core of this move from an industrial age into an age of renewable energy, this package will return every cent of revenue from the big polluters to assist households, support jobs and tackle climate change.
Every member of the Senate will soon have an opportunity to make a difference, an opportunity to stand up and say, ‘I believe in this great nation and I believe in its future’.
Every Member of Parliament has an opportunity to put on record whether they will uphold the great Australian value of fairness. Will they support a fair go for young Australians and generations to come? Will they vote to take action to mitigate human-induced climate change?
The future of this country, its inhabitants and, most importantly, those who will inherit it from us is too important to ignore.
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