MP lobs climate plan into Morrison's court

Rebecca Gredley
·2-min read

The future of an independent MP's climate change plan is in the Morrison government's hands as pressure builds on a timeline to achieve net zero emissions.

Independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall introduced her climate action bill to parliament on Monday, which would rubber-stamp net zero emissions by 2050 and sets up a Climate Change Commission.

She's dared Prime Minister Scott Morrison to allow a conscience vote on the bill if he's not willing to step up on action himself.

Without the support of government the bill will fall to the bottom of parliament's to-do list.

Ms Steggall attempted to ask Mr Morrison if he would bring the bill on debate, but ran out of allotted time when posing the question in parliament.

The bill includes risk assessments so Australians would know the impact climate change would have across the economy.

"A government that downplays the risk and urgency to act is also one that also fails to prepare Australia to build resilience and adapt," Ms Steggall said.

More than 100 organisations including Atlassian, the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Medical Association support the draft legislation.

They have outlined the support in a letter to all members of parliament, urging them to back the bill for the national interest.

The Australian Energy Council says Ms Steggall's plan provides much-needed certainty.

Both Liberal and Labor state governments across the country have adopted the 2050 goal.

Mr Morrison says his government hopes to achieve net zero "as soon as possible".

He argues it would be deceptive to sign up to the target without telling Australians how much it would cost.

By not signing up to the goal Australia is at odds with its major trading partners, with president-elect Joe Biden promising to commit the US to net zero by 2050.

The government points to the Paris Agreement's goal of achieving net zero emissions in the second half of the century, but Ms Steggall says that's a misdirection.

The global pact aims to keep global warming as close to 1.5C as possible and to do so countries need to reduce emissions faster.

Net zero is achieved when all greenhouse gas emissions are balanced out through methods to remove them from the atmosphere.

The US will re-join the Paris deal under Mr Biden's leadership, having exited the climate agreement under the Trump administration.

Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler has long been calling on the government to support net zero by 2050, saying it will help in the race for jobs and investment for clean energy.

Labor has not yet outlined how it plans to achieve the target.