Climate Change

(12.43pm 21 August 2012, Parlaiment House Sydney)

Climate change is the biggest challenge faced by governments. My constituents want the State Government to establish a plan to significantly cut New South Wales greenhouse gas emissions and they want leaders to stop using the issue of climate change to score political points. This year researchers have all but closed the case on human activity and our changing climate: Climate change is happening and we have caused it. Politicians must listen to the experts and take action for our future. Climate change could diminish our environment, health, food supply and economy and create new refugee emergencies.

The joint CSIRO and Australian Bureau of Meteorology State of the Climate 2012 paper reports that the world's 13 warmest years on record occurred in the past 15 years, with every decade warmer than the previous since the 1950s. Sea levels are rising. The report states that concentrations of CO2 measured in the atmosphere in 2011 were the highest in 800,000 years. The report projects Australia's average temperatures to rise by one to five degrees Celsius by 2070, but it also tells us that "action within the next decade to lower greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the probability and severity of climate change impacts".

The carbon tax, which began on 1 July, will help strengthen the financial viability of low carbon energy and create green jobs as we shift from polluting practices. Households are receiving compensation to offset increased costs. The Climate Commission report released today shows the world is moving fast to introduce carbon pricing. By next year, schemes will include 850 million people in 33 countries. China is planning an emissions trading scheme and India limits emissions by its largest polluters and has a price on carbon. While we are not the only country taking action, this has not prevented party politicking from dominating debate. New South Wales should legislate for a strong greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020 with annual goals. We should set a timetable to close the most polluting power plants and place a moratorium on new and expanded coal-fired power. Additional power to replace the heavily polluting Munmorah coal-fired power station, which closed on 4 July, should come from renewables such as solar thermal. I welcome Federal and State government funding for solar plants at Broken Hill and Nyngan.

New South Wales needs a strong renewable energy supply target. We should produce all energy to meet the 20 per cent 2020 renewable energy consumption target rather than purchase it from other States and miss out on a local renewable industry. I look forward to a strong Renewable Energy Action Plan. We need a solar bonus scheme that promotes a sustainable solar industry and requires energy retailers to pay a fair price for renewable energy returned to the grid from solar panels. Energy efficiency targets should be strengthened and apply to electricity distributors. With around 66 per cent of energy lost through heat during transmission from distant power stations, coal-fired power could be made more efficient. The budgets of electricity companies should be subject to mandatory minimum demand management expenditure, given that most new infrastructure is for peak demand, not overall consumption. New appliances, buildings and industrial processes should be subject to higher efficiency performance standards. Fossil fuels subsidies need to be redirected to greener industries.

The City of Sydney's Sustainable Sydney plan aims to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent by 2030. We are taking the city off the coal-fired grid by creating low carbon precincts with locally produced power from trigeneration. Trigeneration captures waste heat from electricity generation to heat and cool buildings, reducing the need for grid power. Trigeneration systems are nearly three times more efficient than coal-fired power stations and would save $1.5 billion in avoided energy infrastructure. We are retrofitting the energy and water performance of the City of Sydney's 45 properties, which will soon have solar panels. This will be the country's largest building-mounted solar installation. We are installing LED lighting in our streets and parks—the first in Australia to do so—and our sustainability programs continue to help businesses and residents reduce energy consumption. Our Better Buildings Partnership with 14 major property owners who own 60 per cent of the central business district's commercial properties will make Sydney one of the world's leading green cities through energy efficiency and green infrastructure hubs. This is vital because 80 per cent of emissions occur in cities.

Our economy needs to change from one based on unlimited cheap fossil fuel to one based on efficiency and renewables. Change is not always easy, particularly for governments, but limiting global warming is essential for our economy, our way of life and our children's future. This is the critical decade and the sooner we cut emissions, the cheaper the reductions will be. New South Wales—the Premier State—should lead on a national and global level. I call on the State Government to get serious about climate change and establish short- and long-term plans to significantly cut emissions.