Thursday, 20 February 2020

ZALI STEGGALL'S CLIMATE BILL


Zali Steggall, the independent federal Member for Warringah, plans to bring a private member’s bill on climate action before the House of Representatives on March 23. Steggall hopes that the major parties can be persuaded to allow their members a conscience vote on her Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020.
 
Very few private members’ bills are passed by parliament.  However, the non-partisanship of this bill and the overwhelming nature of recent disasters give some hope that politicians across the spectrum might come together and act in the long-term national interest for a change and end the ridiculous and futile warfare on climate policy that we as a nation have been stuck with for so long.

Steggall is working to obtain community support through her #ClimateActNow appeal in the hope that constituents will encourage their local members to support the bill.

The bill outlines ways to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050. It deals with climate risks as well as with adaptation and mitigation measures to secure a more resilient Australia.  It also proposes establishing an independent climate change commission to advise parliament.

According to Kate Crowley, associate professor at the University of Tasmania, “Steggall’s bill changes the policy conversation entirely.  It calls for a detailed risk assessment of the challenges of warming across all sectors, and national plans for adapting to those challenges, while reducing emissions in a transparent and accountable way.”

Professor Ross Garnaut , author of the significant 2008 climate change review, supports the target set in Steggall’s bill. “Being introduced by a member of parliament from outside the partisan divide,” he said, “it can pass without any of the parties of government backing down from explicit electoral commitments.”

CEO of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, also commented favourably on the bill which, as Crowley pointed out is a signal to the Prime Minister that business wants “a more ambitious and targeted climate policy”.

For those of us who want to see effective climate action the message is clear.  Let our local MPs know our views.
            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on February 17,  2020.  

Saturday, 8 February 2020

TIMBER LOBBY OPPORTUNISTS


It's amazing how vested interests can jump in and take advantage of even the worst catastrophes. Right now timber industry lobby groups are claiming to have the solution to bushfire hazard reduction - allow them to log national parks!

Of course they are careful to avoid the term logging, preferring instead to use the word “thinning”. Thinning is something that should always occur after logging takes place, but something that has been sadly neglected over the past two decades to cut costs.

The problem is that over 20 years, logging frequency in state forests has increased, as has the intensity, anything up to 80% of basal area in some places.

This heavy logging opens up canopies, lets in sunlight, heats the ground surface, and promotes a massive regrowth, particularly Wattle species, weeds, and highly flammable Blady Grass and Bracken, which results in the entire forest becoming more flammable.

There is a good example on the Summerland Way, 13 km north of Whiporie, showing the higher resilience older forests have against fire. Anyone knowing that road will recall a healthy patch of relatively large Tallowwoods and other tall Eucalypt species, growing right to the road's edge. Those passing since the recent devastating blazes will be relieved to see that forest, while burned, has retained a relatively unscathed canopy, while all around heavily logged forests have been obliterated.

Tall forests with unbroken canopies retain moisture at ground level and in the leaf litter, and they also encourage an understorey which includes fire resistant species, while the deeper shade inhibits the growth of those flammable pioneer species like Wattles and Blady Grass.

All this is in stark contrast to those heavily logged forests, including many of the national parks that were logged to within an inch of their being before they were handed over to the parks estate.

There are areas of forest that could benefit from thinning, including some of the more recently established national parks, but that work has to be carefully undertaken to minimise collateral damage, and definitely not by huge industrial logging machines. 

- John Edwards


This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 27, 2020. 


Tuesday, 28 January 2020

AN EVOLVING CLIMATE POLICY???


Recently I wrote about the possibility of politicians being given a wake–up call as a result of the climate change induced drought and megafires.

There have been some tiny signs that this may have happened with the federal government. 
 
The most dramatic of these came from the federal Science Minister, Karen Andrews, who said that time should not be wasted discussing if climate change is real.  She, unlike some of her more conservative coalition colleagues, obviously accepts the reality of climate change.   She claims that unnecessary debate could distract from the urgent need to develop new bushfire adaption and mitigation techniques.

This sounds very promising and is part of what for months former bushfire chiefs such as Greg Mullins have been calling for.

However, while dealing with the bushfire threat in the long term certainly requires much more effective action from both the federal and state governments, such action does not address the crucial issue of Australia’s totally inadequate carbon emissions reduction policy.

The Prime Minister has also shown he has had a small wake-up call.  He supported Minister Andrews’ announcements which was an improvement on his earlier positioning – including the ridiculous “now is not the time to talk about climate change”.

However on the broader matter of climate policy, Scott Morrison confirmed that the Government would be sticking with the emissions reduction target it took to the election.  But in what he presumably thought would give some comfort to the increasing numbers of the community who are calling for a much more effective emissions reduction policy,  he said that the Government’s climate policy would continue to “evolve”.

So what does that mean?  Very little.  It is nothing more than typical Morrison spin.  It means that the government will go on as before pretending that all that is needed are a few cosmetic changes to convince the electorate that it is doing as much as can be done.

Australia does not have enough time left for Morrison’s policy to "evolve".  Communities here and around the world urgently need stronger climate action from their governments.

            Leonie Blain

This article is an edited version of the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column published in The Daily Examiner on 20 January 2020.