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Christine Milne: We are all accountable and responsible for climate change

Speeches in Parliament
Christine Milne 13 Nov 2013

The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, addresses the Senate on the link between extreme weather events and the need to act on climate change.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (15:35): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to climate change.

What is very interesting is that every time there is an extreme weather event the government comes out very strongly denying the link between the intensity of that extreme weather event and climate change. It has happened now with regard to the Philippines with supertyphoon Haiyan, and yet in the meeting in Warsaw right now the delegate from the Philippines, Mr Yeb Sano, has said quite clearly that it is a climate related event. It is 'climate madness', and he has called on the rest of the world to step up. He has said very clearly:

If not us then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?

That is precisely the point, and yet what we had from the minister was what the Abbott government is going to do every single time climate change and the extreme weather event connection is raised: deny it and move straight onto cost of living. The fact of the matter is that when Senator Cormann talks about cost of living and carbon pricing he is failing to talk about the cost in the Philippines. There are 10,000 people dead, if not more, and there is millions of dollars worth of damage as a result of that extreme weather event. This is on top of extreme weather events in Australia. Senator Cormann said that when the carbon price is gone, pensioners will be $500 better off. During the extreme heat emergency at the time of the Victorian bushfires, more people died of heat exhaustion than as a result of the fires-it was hundreds. It got to the point where a temporary morgue was set up in Adelaide because the morgue could not deal with the number of deaths as a result of heat-related illness. Often, people had illnesses exacerbated by the extreme heatwave conditions.

The point is, you cannot keep talking about climate change and refuse to deal with the science. You cannot say you believe the climate science and then say you will only do a five per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in a country like Australia and give the go-ahead to massive coalmines. These mines will increase the level of emissions globally to the point where the International Energy Agency has said overnight that the golden age of Australia's economy, which will come from massive increases in the export of coal, is going to be a huge hit on the climate and will cost us all dearly. It is time the government acknowledged that link instead of pretending that Australia is some kind of separate thing from the rest of the planet and that we do not have a responsibility to engage on this issue.

That is why I asked the minister whether a future in which supertyphoons become a way of life a future acceptable to him and the Abbott government. I said that because that is precisely what the Filipino delegate at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said. He went on to point out that we have to act. He in fact said that this is a climate emergency and that we have to find an emergency climate pathway. He also went on to talk about the Green Climate Fund. Again, this is the mean-spiritedness of the Abbott government. Part of the global negotiations is for Australia to put money into the Green Climate Fund, because it is that fund that will be used for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries like the Philippines. How can we stand up in Australia and say, 'We are terribly sorry because of the typhoon in the Philippines, but we do not intend to do anything to reduce the risk of it happening again and we are not going to put money into the Green Climate Fund to allow for mitigation and adaptation in the future at the very same time as the conditions exist for yet another typhoon which could develop and hit the same areas again in coming weeks'?

This is a moral imperative. This is a serious emergency. This is not about the cost of living in a rich country like Australia. It is about recognising the connection between extreme weather events, the intensity of those events and what is happening with global warming. We are living in a warmer, wetter world and we are all going to suffer as a result of more extreme weather events. We are therefore all accountable and responsible because we know. Wilful blindness is a climate crime-to be wilfully blind in the face of the science. It will condemn many people to misery in the future.


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