Jenny Leong speaks on the Climate Crisis

Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on the Climate Crisis, on 2 August 2023:

Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (20:59): From unseasonably warm winter days in Sydney to scorching summer temperatures and wildfires across Europe, and scientists confirming that July is the hottest month on record the Earth has ever experienced, the United Nations Secretary‑General has given us a grim warning: The era of global warming has ended and the era of global boiling has arrived. Here in Australia, we are bracing for scorching summer temperatures, with many scientists predicting the first El Niño in three years. It is clear that we need to immediately end our dependence on climate-wrecking coal and gas, keep fossil fuels in the ground, and make the big polluters pay for the damage that they have caused and continue to cause. But instead, tragically, the New South Wales and Federal Labor governments continue to be captured by vested interests connected to the fossil fuel industry.

While we are watching temperature records being broken day after day, and alarm bells are ringing in all directions in the form of wildfires and melting ice caps and extinctions, the New South Wales Labor Government continues to log our native forests, refuses to break the addiction to the fossil fuel industry and steers us further and further towards climate catastrophe. This week, instead of taking the opportunity to follow Victoria's lead to ban gas in new homes and buildings in that State and signal there is no place for gas in a clean energy future, the New South Wales Premier instead chose to shut this move down, declaring in reports that he did not need "another complication"—never mind complications like the catastrophic floods, the raging bushfires, the extreme heatwaves and the droughts that our communities are facing as "complications" to their lives.

Meanwhile at a Federal level, Labor's environment and water Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has approved three coalmines in just the past two months—a new mine, a mine extension, and an exploratory licence. Our community would hope that, as the Federal environment Minister, the Federal member for Sydney would act to protect the environment, which is supposed to be one of her core responsibilities. Instead, she has tried to spin her decisions by citing laws that require applications for new fossil fuel projects to be considered on a case‑by‑case basis and not according to their cumulative contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Both federally and in New South Wales, Labor's climate strategy seems to be to condemn a decade of Liberal inaction in Parliament—and let us be clear, that inaction is real. But it is important to realise that Labor is now in power in New South Wales and federally. It is not enough to just condemn past Liberal inaction. We need to act now to make sure that we are not expanding coal and gas while continuing to log our native forests.

The reality is that, on all fronts, Minister Plibersek, the Albanese Labor Government and the New South Wales Minns Labor Government sadly continue to side with the coal and gas industry over the urgent and desperate need for climate action. We cannot put out this fire while pouring petrol on it and we cannot afford to continue to go down this path. Our inner-city communities, our inner-west communities and our communities across New South Wales expect more. We know that the people who will be impacted most by extreme heat are also the people who are the most vulnerable in our community—those who are marginalised or are facing economic insecurity. We already know, and have seen, that during hot summers parents in Western Sydney resort to driving their children around in cars to keep them cool enough to get to sleep, and older people are forced to spend time, day in and day out, in shopping centres to avoid the extreme weather.

Soaring energy bills and the rate of support below the poverty line—which is another thing the Federal Labor Government has failed to address—mean that people on income support cannot afford to keep themselves warm or cool, with renters freezing or sweltering in their homes because they rarely have access or the funds to fix their cooling or heating systems, and there are no minimum energy standards to ensure their homes are safe. The Greens back the calls from Sweltering Cities and other organisations to keep people safe during extreme heat and extreme cold. Beyond the individual household solutions, though, what we desperately need is real action and real leadership from the New South Wales Government and the Federal Labor Government.

The earth is burning. We need to put an end to coal and gas and move towards 100 per cent renewables. We need to stop the destructive logging of our native forests and make coal and gas corporations pay for the damage they are causing to communities and the environment. No ifs, no buts. This is not the time to make apologies or excuses. The earth is boiling and it is time to act.

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