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Adam Bandt opens the National Climate Emergency Summit

Adam Bandt 14 Feb 2020

I want to acknowledge the traditional owners and elders past, present and emerging. I want to acknowledge that this is stolen land, that sovereignty was never ceded and that it’s time for treaties with our First Nations communities. Around the world, First Nations communities are at the front line of climate impacts and crucial to solving the climate emergency. 

And I want to say welcome to those of you who are visiting my electorate of Melbourne. 

I also want to acknowledge and thank our emergency services and community volunteers who have been working so hard to protect us in the past months as we faced the unprecedented coal-fuelled bushfire crisis.

And finally can I thank all of you.

If our global civilization can survive the environmental and climate emergency, the history books will record that on this day and in this place you came together to find a pathway to a safe climate.

And you will all be considered heroes.

I have just spent the last two weeks in Parliament.

It is hard to describe the level of continued denial and spin that is constantly on display in Canberra. 

We have had people whose houses burned over the summer come to Canberra with what was left of their homes in wheelbarrows and buckets.

They have spoken powerfully and eloquently about the impacts of the climate emergency on their lives.

I was humbled to meet with some of them.

But for most of the Parliament it is like they were invisible.

It is like being in the twilight zone.

From Barnaby and his band of Nationals wanting to build coal fired power stations, to the Prime Minister’s contortions over climate and the bushfire crisis and the shameless deceptions as though everything is under control while their inaction is driving us to a 3 to 4-degree-warmer  world that will completely overrule our economy and society.

And unfortunately the Labor opposition persistently defends the continued role of coal in our economy both for energy and export and they have dropped their 2030 targets.

So it is good to be here among friends who accept the truth of the crisis and want, as Greta Thunberg says, to “listen to the scientists” and act accordingly.

As you may know last week I also became leader of the Australian Greens.

In my first media conference after becoming Greens Leader, I said we should refuse a future where children need to wear gas masks because their cities are full of smoke.

I also spoke about people I meet and talk to who are angry and anxious and desperately looking for leadership.

So now is the time to tell it like it is. Now is the time to face up to the reality of the powers we face if we are to save the planet and save the future.

We’re in a climate emergency because of politicians and power brokers trying to preserve a status quo that sees the coal, oil and gas barons get rich, and then funnel off a tiny bit of that wealth to political parties when they’re in power then give those politicians cushy jobs in their organisations when they leave office.

This is what has taken us past 1 degree of global warming, which has given us towering infernos, flooding, record heat waves, toxic air pollution and so much more. 

The last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the air was at least 2.6 million years, before humans existed. 

Back then, temperatures were more than 3C warmer, there were trees in Antarctica, and sea levels were 25 metres higher.

If we keep polluting at our current rate, we could be at 1,000 ppm by the end of the century. Last time that happened, dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Like them, we face an existential crisis brought on by a rapid shift in the climate system. 

The warming-track of up to 4 degrees we are currently on is a world full of death, destruction and hopelessness. 

It will be a world that may be capable of supporting only a billion people, perhaps less. 

This is horrible to contemplate but it is real. 

Even if there was a 1% chance of this occurring, the potential outcome is so bad we should mobilise the entire machinery of government and society towards avoiding this possibility.

When the Allies won World War 2 it wasn’t just because the US and other governments put their resources into winning it. 

The war was won because the government, industry and communities worked together to meet an unprecedented threat. In 1942 America a spark plug factory started producing machine guns. A merry-go-round factory made gun mounts, a pinball machine plant made armor-piercing shells and a toy company started making compasses.

By working together, the government, industry and the American people met and triumphed over an existential, unprecedented threat.

Now we don’t need to militarise, we need to decarbonise, but fast forward 80 years to today and nothing like that is happening in Australia. We have some parts of industry, including people in this room who are starting to transform our energy sector. And the economics are in your favour, that we know. But we also have other parts of industry trying desperately to hold back this tide--and we have a government that is joining them. 

We had the beginnings of something in the 2010 shared power government, where Greens, Labor and Independents teamed up to implement the Clean Energy Package, but later we became the first nation ever to rescind a carbon price.

I have an unwavering belief that nothing will stop the clean energy revolution.

Nothing will stop scientists and engineers from solving these problems. 

We will get there eventually.

The problem is that we don’t have until eventually. We need to act super fast. If we only reach net-zero by 2050, 2060 or 2070, we will still confront disaster.

That is why the government and the whole of society must recognise we are in an emergency and take action at emergency speed, devoting all the resources we need to stop a threat that simply may become overwhelming.

Now I know there are some who get nervous when we talk about an emergency. They see it as reinforcing the potential for a suspension of rights. 

But there’s also a way of thinking about emergency that is not about police and military, but about rescue. 

Ambulances under lights and sirens take emergency action, and no-one thinks they’re taking away your rights. 

Firefighters take emergency action and they do it to save life.

We all now need to be the firefighters of politics.

And over the next two years the Greens will continue to pursue a declaration of an environmental and climate emergency by the Australian Parliament.

Next fortnight I will introduce to the Commonwealth Parliament the Climate Emergency Declaration Bill.

The bill will declare a climate emergency, require every government department to be guided by the declaration and mandate the establishment of a what in the past was called a ‘war cabinet’ to guide the country through a rapid society- and economy-wide mobilisation to decarbonise the economy.

This bill reflects the scale of the crisis we face and represents the scale of action that is needed. 

Winston Churchill was a flawed man and flawed Prime Minister, but in his greatest hours he reached across the aisle during WWII and formed a grand coalition, with the Labour party and others. 

I know it seems incomprehensible that in today’s political context this could happen, but it’s what should happen and what we need to keep fighting for.

The time for appeasement is over.

It’s time for a Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal is a government-led plan of investment and action to build a clean economy and a caring society. 

A plan where we can fight the climate crisis and fight inequality at the same time. 

I want to create a manufacturing renaissance in this country. 

I want to make Australia the renewable energy superpower where people bring their businesses from overseas for cheap, clean electricity as we urgently phase out coal. 

Let’s export renewable energy while processing our minerals and making the things the world needs here in Australia, as Ross Garnaut proposes. 

I want Australia to make things again and with a Green New Deal we can.

Over the coming months and years I will be traveling the country hosting town hall meetings, community gatherings and kitchen table conversations explaining how a Green New Deal can provide the hope and the action we need to solve the climate crisis.

Because just shouting ‘fire’ at someone doesn’t help them find the exit. 

We need to provide a pathway to safety. 

That’s what a Green New Deal, a plan for a whole of society mobilisation, provides.

By showing that emergency action on climate can make people’s lives better, protecting their lives and their children's lives, we will mobilise a powerful movement that can change our country and help save the future.

Friends, our country is on fire and our planet is heading the same way.

We have no choice but to tell the truth about the crisis we face and what is needed.

The time for half measures is over. Because time is running out.

So please use the next two days together to generate the energy and ideas that will make our movement stronger and more powerful.

Good luck.

Thank you.

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