welcome the release by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the report entitled ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’;
note that this report states that ‘it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land’, and that this is making extreme climate events (including heat waves, heavy rainfall, and, in some regions, droughts) more frequent and severe;
note that the report stresses that only rapid, near term reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases, can limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius;
note that the impacts of a warming of 2 degrees or more would lead to a substantial increase in the likelihood of extreme heat waves, heavy precipitation, and droughts (both agricultural and ecological);
note that theParis Agreement requires that all participating countries act with the highest possible ambition in reducing emissions;
note that participating countries are expected under that Agreement to submit increasingly ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years, and that the Federal Government, which in December 2020, resubmitted the original NDC made in2015, has thus failed to fulfill its obligation to that Agreement (unlike the European Union, United States, Canada, Norway, and more);
note that the Paris Agreement states that it ‘will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of differential national circumstances’, and that Australia ought, as a wealthy country, to act before those who are less wealthy, not least as a sign of good faith for further international cooperation;
note that Australia can become a global leader for clean, renewable, energy and exports, and, with the right policies, could replace all of our fossil fuel jobs with clean jobs – some reports estimate that more than one million jobs could be created throughout our country – while cleaningup our air, and diversifyingour economy;
call, therefore, upon the Mayor to write a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, demanding that the Federal Government commit to a 2030 target of at least 75% reduction in emissions; and
call on the Member for [Federal electorate/s] to sign the Community Protection Pledge – a set of 10 commitments, based on the Final report of the National Bushfire and Climate Summit 2020, for keeping residents safe from worsening extreme weather (including adequate funding to support the critical role of Local Governments in disaster preparedness and recovery).
The IPCC’s ‘code red’
On 9 August 2021, the IPCC released its latest report, which is a comprehensive assessment of the physical science of climate change. It is the most important climate science update for almost a decade.
The IPCC is the most authoritative international body on climate science. Established in 1988, the group publishes Assessment Reports every five to eight years. The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the report as a ‘code red for humanity’.
What does the report say?
The report shows that terrible and irreversible changes to our planet can be avoided only with immediate, deep and sustained emissions reductions. The report clearly states that the climate is changing at a rate unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years, and that the change is being driven in large part by the burning of fossil fuels.
The report makes clear that every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted matters: ‘With every additional increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger. For example, every additional 0.5℃ of global warming causes clearly discernible increases in the intensity and frequency of hot extremes, including heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, as well as agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions.’
An opportunity for leadership
All levels of government have a duty to keep their residents safe, but the Federal Government’s leadership is crucial in responding to the scale of the risk of climate impacts. Following the worst ever bushfires in eastern Australia in 2019–2020, 150 experts from around the country determined how Australia should respond to the growing risks of extreme weather disasters. The Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan made 165 broad-ranging recommendations.
The Community Protection Pledge distils those recommendations into 10 commitments that Federal Members can implement in order to protect Australians now, and into the future.
Addressing the root cause of the climate crisis and worsening extreme weather by accelerating Australia’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions need to plummet this decade, with net zero emissions achieved very soon thereafter.
Urgently implementing all 80 recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, including providing the necessary funding.
Increasing funding for research into climate change and extreme weather, including new and more detailed climate projections that better inform risk assessments and the impacts of such disasters on human health.
Investing in communities so they are better prepared when disasters strike and can recover more quickly; recognizing that preparedness saves lives and many dollars in avoided disaster recovery costs.
Enhancing Australia’s capabilities for responding to extreme weather disasters in line with advice from State and Territory agencies. This includes better resourcing and coordination so that responses are swift, coordinated, and stop emergencies from escalating into disasters
Improving community engagement, education and support around extreme weather so that individuals are better informed, prepared and empowered to act. This includes investing in adequate warning systems and locally-led initiatives such as community resilience hubs.
Making rapid and comprehensive recovery from extreme weather events a priority for all levels of government. This requires fast, evidence-based and transparent access to disaster recovery payments for survivors, so help gets to people on the ground quickly.
Preparing Australian infrastructure, including homes and community facilities, for extreme weather events. This includes reforming Building Standards and appropriate rebates and subsidies for retrofitting to ensure solutions are affordable to all.
Involving health and family violence experts in disaster planning and response coordination and ensuring adequate access to health services including mental health and family violence services, and access to telehealth for all those affected by disasters.
Providing adequate funding to support the critical role of Local Governments in disaster preparedness and recovery, so that they have the resources to build resilient communities.
No community within Australia remains untouched by climate change. Our country is highly exposed to impacts including record-breaking heat, more dangerous bushfire seasons, coastal flooding and supercharged storms. These extreme weather events are worsening, and the impacts are reverberating throughout our communities.
Worsening extreme weather, driven by climate change, is compounding costs for councils. This includes mounting damage to council-owned assets, rising insurance premiums and increasing liability risks.
Also, renewables create jobs: in 2019, at least 25,000 people were employed across renewable energy supply chains and almost 10,000 of those jobs were in rooftop solar. By 2035 the renewable energy sector could employ as many as 46,000 people under the AEMO’s Step Change Scenario.
But rooftop solar is not the only way we could reduce emissions while creating jobs right here in our LGA. The ‘Million Jobs Plan’ by thinktank Beyond Zero Emissions shows that Australia can also cut emissions significantly by making buildings more energy-efficient and comfortable. The ‘Better Buildings’ initiative demonstrates that it would create 180,000+ jobs and reduce the cost of living for 2.65 million Australian households – and there is no reason why our LGA should not benefit from this opportunity.
An Appropriate Target
A national Australian target of 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2035 has been deemed compliant with the goals of the Paris Agreement by the independent Climate Targets Panel and the Climate Council.