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Climate Change (State Action) Amendment Bill 2021

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Tags: Climate Change, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to speak on the bill, to make some comments on the bill obviously, but to express my disappointment that it is not much stronger. I have close experience with this legislation, because I was the minister for climate change between the years 2010 and 2014.

It is important to remind the House of the history. This legislation came about as a result of former premier Paul Lennon's epiphany, where he suddenly discovered climate change. I think it was something to do with spending time with his grandchildren. He established something quite extraordinary at the time, which was a climate change office, a whole-of-government response to emissions reduction and adaptation, Wedges reports so that government agencies were required to feed into this report their emissions and their capacity for emissions savings. Some really good, strong preliminary work was done back in 2007 and 2008 to deliver the legislation that we are tinkering with today.

Paul Lennon, Jeremy Rockliff, Rebecca White, Mr Jaensch just cannot say the F-word. They cannot acknowledge the role of forests in mitigating the worst effects of climate change. It is just something they really struggle to talk about. Ministers and premiers say, 'Look at our climate positive profile' but it is so clear that our accounts started turning positive on a graph as a result of the Tasmanian forest agreement vote and the 576 000 hectares of carbon rich forest which were set aside from logging. That is the reason we have the climate profile that we have. It is the reason that we are now, on paper at least, a carbon sink. It is the reason why aspiring to have an emissions reduction target of net zero by 2030 is weak. That is where we are now. We have had the minister say we are going to grow as a state so we just need to maintain net zero. I hear that. I have heard him say it, but the fact is, it is not particularly ambitious to say eight years from now we will be in basically the same position on our climate profile as we were in 2022.

There are a number of things that this Government could be doing short of tinkering with the Climate Change (State Action) Act. Why is the Government not proposing to upgrade the amazing climate futures work? Is there any attention being paid to an update of this work? This was work that was initially undertaken by a Labor government and then by two Greens ministers for climate change in a Labor-Green government. It is comprehensive, easy to read, a tool for everyday Tasmanians, landowners, industries and for government to understand the impact of global heating on this island out to the year 2100 under a range of emission scenarios. As I hope every member in this House has grasped, we are on a high emission trajectory.

I am sure my colleagues have seen the pictures this past week of the drying up of the Rhine River in Germany. In France, the Loire River, drying up; half of England, dirt, dust, brown - that same brown that the Midlands here sometimes go in very hot, dry summers. We are seeing glaciers collapse, and there are fires raging across the planet. That is why Dr Woodruff and I sometimes get so frustrated. We cannot understand how any government, any minister, any opposition - whether it is here, or in Canberra, or in any other part of Australia - cannot see that this is urgent. It requires courage, leadership, clear communication and investment. Investment in emissions reduction, investment in helping communities adapt.

It is deeply regrettable that a person who is now the climate minister who was on a climate action council is delivering some amendments to legislation two years late that contain no ambition, no sectoral targets. We have had very little said by this minister about the science of climate change. I hope Mr Jaensch has at least looked at the climate futures work. It is extraordinary. It is world-leading science because we have here on our doorstep world-leading climate, atmospheric and Southern Ocean scientists. They are our advisers to help chart this beautiful island and its community through what is going to be a very hard century.

I encourage the new minister for climate change to have a good look at climate futures because, as a tool for Tasmanians to understand the impacts, there was nothing like it. There is still nothing like it because most of the material in this report, and the associated reports, is still contemporary and relevant today.

I had a very interesting briefing the other day with a senior person connected to Government. We were talking about the climate and this person told me that the highest source of emissions in Tasmania is transport. I said, 'No you are quite wrong, you need to read Dr Jen Sanger's paper'. Fortunately, Mr Jaensch has not been foolish enough to join the pile on, but we have had ministers in here denigrate Dr Sanger's work without having a look at the methodology, the conclusions, the references, without approaching this issue with the necessary open-mindedness.

As a consequence, our new Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management and our minister responsible for logging, who denigrated Dr Sanger's work as he postured around this Chamber, has been fact checked by RMIT and found to be completely wrong on forest carbon.

As Dr Woodruff pointed out, when forests are logged the vast majority of our native forests do not go to hardwood, long term, carbon sequestering products. From a total forest biomass of 100 per cent, about 29 per cent goes to pulp, about 60 per cent is left on site. The slash that is burnt, 7 per cent to peeler logs, 4 per cent to saw logs, 1 per cent to sawn timber, 24.5 per cent to paper products and a lot of that will be toilet paper. It is very clear that logging native forests is damaging the climate as we speak.

Emissions per sector in Tasmania: waste - 3.9 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent; transport 1.8 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent; logging, if you count it properly 4.21 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent. The 4.21 million tonnes of carbon emitted by forestry is equivalent to the annual emissions from a million cars, the annual emissions of 237 000 Australian homes, close to six times the emissions of the Tasmanian tourism industry and 388 000 return flights to London.

As Dr Sanger points out in her outstanding report, which I will be sending to this person who thought that transport was the biggest emitter, the issue here is that: (TBC):

Forestry emissions are reported in a category called 'land use change and forestry' which has been set up by the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change. This includes all the emissions and carbon removals that occur on land. Emissions from native forest logging and the carbon dioxide drawn down by forests are both included in this category and are reported as a net figure. This net figure makes it impossible to tell how many greenhouse gas emissions are coming from logging and how much carbon dioxide all of the forests are drawing down from the atmosphere.

As Dr Sanger points out we need more detailed reporting that separates logging emissions from the carbon removed by forests so policy makers can make better decisions when it comes to managing our forests. When they see the napalm burn clouds that are a result of our native forest logging industry, everyone knows that that is pollution that is going straight up into the atmosphere and it will be there for more than a century. It will make our children's lives very difficult.

Everyone here, when they are thinking about it rationally and stripping back the politics, knows that native forest logging is unsustainable, if for no other reason, from a climate perspective. If you are not concerned about biodiversity, water quality, soil impacts, if for no other reason, native forest logging is a crime against the climate. Our greatest gift to the world in so many ways is to protect our forests. The carbon in those forests is our great social, economic, moral wealth. We have a moral obligation to keep that in the ground because forests are the best carbon capture technology there is.

Before I close and hand over to Mr Barnett - who am I quite glad does not have the Resources portfolio anymore but I am very glad has Housing - I want to read some of the speech Mr Owen Fitzgerald made at the Protestival, which was on the lawns of Parliament House last Saturday morning. Owen Fitzgerald is an impressive, bright, fiercely passionate young man. This is the speech he gave at Protestival, a part of it that is relevant to this issue, knowing that there is legislation sitting in the upper House which would restrict young people, people like Owen Fitzgerald's right and capacity to protest for a state safe climate.

Owen says:

I am here today fighting for my future and the future of my generation and those to come. I am here fighting to have my voice heard. The fight for the climate and youth futures go hand in hand. Protests have shaped modern society and that is how my future will be decided.

Without protests, we would not be living in this kind of society. However, I have to protest in a modern society as I am deemed too young, uneducated or brainwashed around topics such as climate crisis. I am ignored by politicians. I am told to go back to school to get an education, that I am ruining my future.

The youth of society have to fight. We have to be loud and we must take action because you, the Government, refuse to listen. The climate crisis is critical and this Government wants to silence those who care enough to fight.

Both the federal and local governments of Australia are still content with killing our world. They still allow the development of coal and gas mines and refuse to begin the phase-out of these developments as they see the economic benefits as a higher priority than the future of the Australian people and the natural environment. They see forestry as a higher priority to their positions within parliament and for the economy. What they fail to see is the environmental impacts and crisis they are supporting and causing. They are failing to see that they are ripping the youth of their future.

This bill makes some quite modest changes to the climate management framework in Tasmania. We have had a Government that has de-prioritised climate and I hope that we are going to see a turn around here. It is the UN decade of ecosystem restoration. We can have climate and biodiversity benefits if we are investing in restoration, like the fantastic work that has been done in the Midlands, led by scientist Neil Davidson in and around Ross, and by farmers such as Roderick O'Connor and Julian von Bibra who are doing fantastic work on carbon farming. We need some more resources in this space.

I commend to every member of this House this production by photographer Rob Blakers. This is the McKimmie Forest, which is the forest that Chinese state-owned mining company MMG wants to put a toxic mine waste dump in. You cannot look at the pictures in this beautiful book and think it is acceptable in a time of climate and biodiversity crisis to approve a project when there are alternatives that would drive a creature like the masked owl to extinction.

Let us, as a parliament, as responsible adults, do better. We will ultimately support this bill but we will be moving some amendments. I encourage all members of this place to acknowledge that it makes the Tasmanian people very happy indeed when they see people working together on issues of this magnitude that will have such an effect on their lives, their future and that of their children. What we can agree on here, we absolutely have to. We owe it to the people who put us here.