Hon Zali Steggall Bill - A Climate Change Act would be a game-changer

The Climate Change Bill 2020 being introduced into the Federal Parliament by Hon Zali Steggall is a bold attempt to halt 15 years or more of dithering within that Parliament while climate change has become increasingly obvious, destructive and dangerous and responses to it have been woefully inadequate. As the initiative has come from a non-aligned independent member of the Parliament, the Bill could be a circuit breaker to achieve sufficient bi-partisan support. 

Unlike the UK and many other nations, that level of rational behaviour on this issue has been absent in Australia to date.

Although the proposed National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation Bill does not include all that DEA would like to see embraced and has not emphasized the scale and urgency of actions now required, it does include the widely accepted goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and proposes a useful framework for action with an independent Climate Change Commission to assist in accelerating the process. 

 With those reservations, DEA as an organisation supports the Bill and encourages its members and the wider public to persuade their local Federal Parliamentary members to support this bi-partisan, essential legislation which should have been enacted years ago.   

How can you help canvass support for this Bill? 

  • Sign the petition  
  • Convince your MP to have a conscience vote for the Climate Change Act (phone/write or meet with them--DEA has developed an MP visit Advocacy Pack to assist members with MP visits in relation to this Bill).
  • Consider being in Canberra on March 23rd to show support. 
  •  Sign DEA's Climate Emergency campaign 

 Ensure to note that you’re a doctor concerned about climate-health risks when you’re contacting your local MP. 

For more ways to help, please contact admin@dea.org.au or your state DEA committee. 

Guidance and resources can also be found on the Climate Act Now website  

The Bill proposed by Zali Steggall has four major objectives: 

1. a positive response to the challenges of climate change that is transparent and effective, and that pursues new opportunities, generational equity and just transitions 

2. national plans for adapting to a changing climate, so that the different parts of our continent and economy can respond positively to changing physical conditions and international policies 

3. national plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to meet emission reduction targets that align with scientific imperatives and State government and international commitments, and 

4. transparent monitoring, reporting and accountability for national adaptation and emission reduction actions, with an independent Climate Change Commission (CCC) to advise Government and Parliament. 

Main components of the Bill 

  • The inclusion of an independent Climate Change Commission is a vital component of this Bill and an independent Commonwealth Sustainability Commission has been DEA policy for some time.                                It would need however to be led by genuine experts in a number of relevant fields (including health which appears to be lacking in the current proposal) and mandated to give strong high- level advice, based upon the best available evidence, to the Federal Government with the clear understanding that such advice must be taken into account when major policy is being formulated.                   
  •  In response to the best available scientific evidence, the objective of zero net global emissions, incorporated within the Bill, has now been adopted by over 80 countries, all of the Australian States and Territories, many local governments, the Business Council of Australia and many major corporations. The Federal Government has chosen not to do so and repeats the same tired excuses why it cannot set that minimum goal. 

However what the Federal Parliament has failed to address, and what this Bill still does not adequately emphasize is the absolute urgency (this decade, this year) of addressing the rising green-house gas emissions causing the present impacts of climate change nationally and internationally. 

Even if all commitments made to the Paris Agreement were fulfilled, we will not achieve the necessary reductions in national or global emissions by 2030. 

The next decade is crucial, made more urgent by the policy and practice failures of the previous decades. A recent IPCC report  highlights that globally an annual reduction in emissions of 7.6% through to 2030 will be needed to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrialisation levels. 

Politicians must listen to the science 

After a summer of horrendous bush fires with associated air pollution sweeping through large areas of Australia, the Australian public is now well aware of the threats climate change presents and that more effective policies are going to be necessary to reduce the chance of such events recurring in our very vulnerable country and being better prepared for that likelihood. 

The Zali Steggall Bill is a private members Bill and it proposes a valuable framework. 

The Bill and the Health Sector 

A Climate Change Act would mean that the health sector could put into action, plans to adapt to and mitigate climate-health risks. 

Climate action is a tremendous opportunity for health: many climate actions – renewable energy, cleaner transport, greener cities— will mean cleaner air, healthier communities, safer/ cooler cities.         

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