Transcript - Speech at Climate Strike - Friday 20 September 2019

I want climate justice too, and like you I want it now. I want to congratulate all of you for coming and expressing your views and making sure your voices are heard.

You know, I said in the Parliament yesterday that in the regions our landscapes are burning, our towns are running out of water, literally, and our farmers are facing a calamity. I also heard Craig Kelly, who is about to visit Cessnock, say in the Parliament yesterday that there is no link between climate change and drought.

*Crowd booing*

Craig Kelly will be in Cessnock sometime soon and I suggest you gather for his arrival and make your views known to him very, very clearly.

Now not all that many years ago, something really amazing happened in Paris. Nearly 200 countries agreed, for the first time, in a meaningful way to all play their part in responding to the challenges of a changing climate by addressing the causes, or at least in part, the cause of those changes – and that was really historic.

And Australia should be fulfilling the commitments it made in Paris. But despite what Scott Morrison tells you, we are not. In fact, Scott Morrison is not even on target to meet his own carbon reduction target which of course is between 26 and 28 per cent. Wouldn’t it be nice to just get to 26 and 28 per cent before having a debate on what more we need to do – that would be a very, very good start.

But you know the great tragedy is this; Australia is changing its ways - our take up on renewables is just amazing - but we need to progress those changes further. But as a contributor of about only 1.3 per cent of the global emissions, our task is really a relatively easy one, which makes Scott Morrison’s attitude and the attitude of the National Party so, so disappointing.

The real challenge is to get emissions down in countries like China, which of course is responsible for about a third of global emissions. And we can’t expect China to listen to us if we are not ourselves fulfilling the commitment we gave at Paris.

But I want to say one other thing to you: we can take action on climate change without doing damage to our economy. We can take action on climate change without losing jobs. Indeed, we can take action on climate change without damaging the Hunter Valley’s coal industry.

Now many of you will have people, family members, working in the coal mining industry, and I want to say a few things about that. First, we have to separate the coal generation issue away from the coal mining issue. They are very different things. Our coal generation capacity will fall as the physical lives of our generators come to an end.  And as long as Scott Morrison doesn’t decide to use taxpayers’ money to help build new ones, there won’t be any new coal fired power generators.

But about 90 per cent of the Hunter’s coal goes to export markets, and those export markets will grow larger in the future? They will be the Chinas and Indias of the world where they are trying to modernise and move to a cleaner economy. Now they cannot move to a cleaner economy without our assistance. They cannot move to a cleaner economy without the Hunter’s cleaner and more efficient coking and steaming coal, which is another point.

60 per cent of Australia’s coal exports, by value, is coking coal. Now, I heard someone say: we want China to modernise, but we want them to use renewables. Yes, but the problem is China is so large it needs all the renewable, gas and coal energy it can muster.

Now I’ll make another point: it takes 200 tonnes of metallurgical coal to make one wind turbine; you can’t make wind turbines without metallurgical coal, and we have plenty of it here and plenty of eager customers for it. We can do something about the climate without forsaking our mining industry and our local jobs.

So I say to you. You can have Scott Morrison doing nothing, or you can have Anthony Albanese absolutely committed to climate change action and absolutely committed to our Paris obligations. But you do not have to destroy locals jobs in the coal mining industry in the process.

So you can have Scott Morrison doing nothing, and indeed making things worse, of course his Drought Minister is a climate change denier. Labor has demonstrated in the past that it is serious about taking action on climate change. We will continue to make that point and to commit ourselves to doing so. But what we won’t do is slow the progress of those developing nations who are the big emitters and who are themselves trying to modernise to something better. And we won’t destroy the jobs of our local miners who are exporting relatively clean and efficient coal to those developing nations who desperately need our assistance to generate the energy they need to make solar panels and the metallurgical steel to make wind turbines.

If we can’t help China and India reduce their emissions, nothing we do in Australia will make any difference because we are such a small contributor.

So I am absolutely with you, but I’ll make one last point. If you want your voice to be fully heard, you’ve got to embrace the full story; you’ve got to acknowledge how complex the issue is. But more than anything, you’ve got to back politicians who are absolutely committed to climate change and I am most certainly one of them.

Good luck and thank you.


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  • Joel Fitzgibbon
    published this page in Media 2019-09-20 17:00:00 +1000