The Australian Greens have called for a massive ramping up of public investment in new green infrastructure, and declared a “war on privatisation,” saying the Morrison government is failing to seize Australia’s opportunities to drive a sustainable recovery to the Covid-19 induced recession.
In a speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday, Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt reiterated a call for the federal government to embrace a ‘Green New Deal’, a philosophy that is being pushed by progressive Democrats in the United States and governments in Europe.
Bandt called for a massive ramping up of Australia’s emissions reduction targets, saying the current targets being pursued by both the Morrison government and the Labor opposition are not consistent with what is needed to keep global warming within safe levels.
“The facts are, anything less than a 75% reduction by 2030 is simply not consistent with the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, and anything less than 48% is inconsistent with 2 degrees,” Bandt told the Press Club.
“Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese’s climate targets – paid for and set by $9.3 million in donations from the coal, oil and gas industry – will have us passing tipping points, making global heating an unstoppable chain reaction.
“Currently we’re heading towards a cliff at 200 km/hr, the Liberals want us to slow down to 180 km/hr before we go over the edge and Labor is debating amongst themselves if it should be 150km/hr. In an emergency, you put your foot on the brake and drive off in a new direction. And – this is the critical point – you have to do it before you reach the cliff edge,” Bandt added.
As part of an Australian ‘Green New Deal’, Bandt said the Greens’ proposals would focus on the construction of new social housing, free childcare, Australian manufacturing, 100% renewables and high-speed rail.
Bandt criticised the Morrison government’s economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in particular, described the recent flurry of energy policy announcements, and measures included within the federal budget, as “criminal”.
“The government has been advised by the Bureau of Meteorology that Australia is on track for 4.4 degrees of warming under their current targets,” Bandt told the Press Club. “As a result some scientists warn that on the current pathway we will face a future world unable to sustain more than half of the current global population. This is a terrifying catastrophe, it could lead to civilisational collapse.
“Scott Morrison’s Paris targets mean 95% of irrigation farmers in the Murray Darling Basin will be forced to leave or go bankrupt. Northern Australia will be uninhabitable from oppressive monsoonal heat and southern Australia will watch as the desert sprawls outwards.”
Bandt said that while it was important to focus on the immediate response to the Covid-19 pandemic, that the climate crisis continues to loom as a larger challenge.
“While we have all been battling the pandemic, the climate crisis has gotten dramatically worse and Australia’s pollution from gas drilling is rising,” Bandt said.
“The COVID crisis is a disaster, but the growing climate crisis will be far, far worse. But what the pandemic has shown us is that if we act with urgency on the advice of experts, we can save lives and avoid unimaginable damage.”
It was a very personal address to the National Press Club by the Greens leader, who reflected that he feared for the kind of world his children would grow up to live in, given the predicted impacts of climate change, and the Morrison government’s refusal to take stronger action to reduce Australia’s emissions.
“I lie awake some nights wondering what this means for my children,” Bandt said. “My daughter told me last week she’s going to have seven children and be an astronaut, ballerina, teacher and a mum when she grows up.
“Distressingly, an increasingly more plausible prospect is that when she hits 30, cities might be going underwater and large parts of the planet will be becoming uninhabitable. And the process may be irreversible by that point. I just don’t see how my daughters – or anyone else – survives to live a good life. And that tears me up inside. That is why we are in a climate emergency.”