Today we celebrate a huge achievement, with the passage of the Clean Energy Future legislation that finally puts a price on pollution and gets us ready for historical investments in clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency and protection of landscape carbon.
But, in a very real way, today's vote is a new beginning for the campaign for serious climate action, not the end.
This package of bills was designed carefully to have as many points of review as possible, as many opportunities for campaigning as possible, and as much independent expert advice as possible. Critically, it is designed with complete upward flexibility: there is no limit to our ambition if we are ready to aim high.
The challenge now is to build the political will for ambitious, science-based action over the years ahead.
The single most important innovation in the Clean Energy Future package is the process for setting targets for the emissions trading scheme that starts in 2015. Inspired by the British system, we will have five year rolling carbon budgets, updated each year for the following five year period. Annual targets for the trading scheme will be set within those budgets.
The carbon budgets, which will have to pass through the parliament, will be recommended by an independent expert panel, the Climate Change Authority. In the UK, it has already proven too hard for the government of the day to disregard the recommendations of their Climate Commission - a key factor in the UK's world-leading position on legislated pollution targets. The Authority will have regard to but not be bound by the new 80% by 2050 emissions reduction target. It will undertake extensive public consultation and look in detail at current science, current global efforts and the local economy when determining what budgets it will recommend for the following five year budget each February. The parliament will have to act on those recommendations by the federal budget each year, marking out a critical period for climate campaigning.
This means that, each and every year from 2014 on, we will have the opportunity to lift our sights to greater ambition, to bring our targets closer into line with the science.
That brings us the first key challenge. As world-renowned climate scientist, Professor John Schellnhuber, who was here in Australia recently, said: "If political reality is not grounded in physical reality, it is useless". In order to create the space for the climate change authority to do its job, we have to embark on a major campaign to rebuild respect for the science and broad public acknowledgement of the scale of the problem we face in attempting to keep global warming to less than 1.5 -2C.
And, of course, making the best possible appointments to the Authority will also be critical.
That brings me to the next critical area where what we are legislating today is only a start - driving the transformation to 100% renewable energy.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation [CEFC] and Australian Renewable Energy Agency [ARENA] have the potential to dramatically re-shape the investment environment for renewable energy in this country. If they are to be as effective as they possibly can be, the renewable energy industry and those who want to see it grow as fast as it can have a very small window of opportunity to help shape the CEFC's investment mandate and make suggestions for who should be on the boards of both independent statutory authorities. We need to get these right and get them moving to give big solar and all the other technologies the market signal they need to start building.
At the same time, I have every hope that the initiatives we have instigated - from requiring the Australian Energy Market Operator to prepare scenario planning for 100% renewables to tasking the Ministerial Council on Energy with examining long overdue energy market reform to prioritise demand side management alongside supply side - will make bureaucrats and politicians alike sit up and think about the way our energy grid and markets work. We all need to support this process by gathering evidence and examples of how energy markets operate here and elsewhere in the world to stimulate innovation rather than stifle it, and bring it to the table here.
On that issue of driving the energy revolution and the opportunity to move to 100% renewables, I am determined to focus political attention next year on the grid infrastructure. The grid has been overlooked for too long in our debate. It clearly isn't a sexy topic, but everybody knows that, if we plan in the national interest, make the right investment decisions now and put the right management policies in place, we will make the transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency easier, faster and less expensive.
Another major area of focus for the Greens next year will be the intersection between the food, water, energy and climate crises - namely, food security. We need to maximise food production and export by lifting agricultural productivity in the face of escalating climate change and oil depletion. Competition for land and water between agriculture, coal seam gas, carbon storage, urbanisation and land grabs from foreign governments must be resolved. The carbon farming initiative and the biodiversity fund have been designed in such a way that they can guide decisions on land use and encourage decisions that will benefit the climate, our biodiversity and our farmers, indigenous communities and other land managers. Again, appointments to the board will be critical, as will be public work to create the space for that board to do its job.
There is a myriad of reviews that have been negotiated through this agreement, such as the Productivity Commission's ongoing analysis of the compensation package to polluting industry. We all need to be gathering evidence, participating in and scrutinising these reviews to get the best possible results from them.
All told, the package we are legislating today is a very big first step. Where the old CPRS that we rejected was a full stop at the end of the campaign to tackle climate change, this package is an opening paragraph. We have a lot of work to do in the months and years ahead to make the best use of the opportunities we have created.
Only then will the story we have started to write today truly become the transformative narrative that underpins our future.