Australian Greens' Additional Comments
The Australian Greens generally agree with the committee’s
conclusions and recommendations, but the make following additional comments.
1 The urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
While this inquiry was principally focused on the rising
cost of extreme weather events and the need to adapt to climate change, the
imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid future climate change
impacts received relatively little attention. In reality, however, it is not
possible to consider climate change adaptation without recognition of the need
to urgently reduce emissions.
The inquiry report does touch on the Climate Commission
report The Critical Decade 2013: Climate Science, Risks and Responses, noting
the Commission said that 'some progress is being made globally to reduce carbon
emissions but far more needs to be done'. However more detail would be
appropriate. For example the Climate Commission report also said that:
...to have a 75% chance of staying within the 2°C limit, we can
emit no more than 1,000 billion tonnes of CO2 from 2000 to mid-century. In the
first 13 years of this period, we have already emitted nearly 400 billion
tonnes, about 40% of the total allowable budget. That leaves a budget of just over
600 billion tonnes of CO2 for the next 35-40 years, after which the world
economy needs to be completely decarbonised. Worse yet, the rate at which we
are spending the budget is still much too high, and is growing. For example,
from 2011 to 2012, global CO2 emissions rose by 2.6%. Under a
business-as-usual model, with emissions growing at 2.5% per annum, we are
on track to have completely used up the allowable global emissions budget
within the next 16 years, that is, by 2028 [Emphasis added].
While the Climate Commission was discussing global
emissions, it is obvious that the weak emission reduction targets of 5–25 per
cent by 2020 adopted by Labor and the Coalition are not consistent with the
urgent imperative described above.
2 Inadequate national leadership by the Commonwealth government
All tiers of Government are responsible for preparation for
and recovering from natural disasters and extreme weather events. The evidence
presented to the committee makes it clear, however, that existing plans are frequently
unimplemented and preparations are uncoordinated. These failures must be
sheeted home to the Commonwealth. The Greens strongly endorse the committee's
5.131 At the same time, national leadership by the
Commonwealth government is also required. The Commonwealth government's own
position paper on climate change adaptation identifies the importance of
leadership at a national level in terms of managing and responding to extreme
weather events. Rather, during the course of the inquiry, it became apparent to
the committee that the Commonwealth government's oversight of its response to
climate change and extreme weather events has not achieved all that is
required. Key documents, such as the National Climate Change Adaptation Framework,
have not been reviewed or properly implemented. Promised reports measuring
Australia's progress on adapting to climate change, such as the 'Climate
Futures Report', have not materialised.
The Greens contend, however, that is not sufficient for the
committee to simply recommend that the Commonwealth government should implement
the findings of the Productivity Commission inquiry into Barriers to
Effective Climate Change Adaptation. Rather, we believe the committee
should condemn the government for its failure to lead and coordinate efforts to
prepare for and recover from natural disasters and extreme weather events. The
buck passing, particularly onto local governments which frequently lack the
required capacity, needs to cease.
Further the Greens argue that:
- the Commonwealth government should ensure that risks associated
with a range of global warming scenarios should be integrated into all relevant
national policies, standards, targets and oversight; and
- Commonwealth agencies should report on climate risk readiness
(along with their emission mitigation efforts), for a range of warming
3 Serious lack of risk mitigation funding
The Greens contend that the report does not adequately
address the problem on inadequate expenditure on risk mitigation.
The Insurance Australia Group commented that the emergency
management community generally accepts that one dollar spent on risk mitigation
can save at least two dollars in recovery costs. But Australian government
spending on mitigation initiatives represents around only 3 per cent of what it
spends on post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.
The Productivity Commission has reached a similar
conclusion, noting that effective emergency management requires striking the
right balance between preventing and preparing for disasters on the one hand,
and responding to and recovering from them on the other. The Commission
highlighted that compared to the $6.7 billion spent on disaster recovery over
the last 6 years, only $0.18 billion has been spent on disaster mitigation.
According to the insurance industry we need to increase
investment in disaster mitigation and resilience strategies. The $27 million
per annum allocated for mitigation works under the National Partnership
Agreement on Natural Disaster Resilience is inadequate.
Additional funding is needed to allow additional protective
works including barrages for unusual tides, levee banks, sea walls, properly
maintained fire breaks and access trails, improved flood drainage and dams.
Most recently the Australian Business Roundtable for
Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities has called for an annual program of
Australian government expenditure on pre-disaster resilience of $250 million.
The Roundtable calculated that at the national level this level of expenditure
has the potential to generate budget savings of $12.2 billion for all levels of
government (including $9.8 billion for the Australian government) and would
reduce natural disaster costs by more than 50% by 2050.
The Roundtable makes three key recommendations each of which
the Greens strongly endorse:
(1) Improve co-ordination of
pre-disaster resilience by appointing a National Resilience Advisor and
establishing a Business and Community Advisory Group.
(2) Commit to long term annual
consolidated funding for pre-disaster resilience.
(3) Identify and prioritise
pre-disaster investment activities that deliver a positive net impact on future
4 Maintaining funding of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research
The committee report rightly noted that many expert
witnesses lamented the cessation of funding of the National Climate Change
Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). We concur for example with the following
observations in the report:
5.73 NCCARF focused on delivering information to decision-makers
to support climate change adaptation investments and initiatives, and to allow
end users of the research to be involved. In this way, NCCARF sought to build
the capacity of the Australian community to adapt effectively to climate change
5.77 Many saw the value in the interdisciplinary work that
NCCARF was facilitating, contributing to a cohesive research agenda around
adaptation for extreme weather events. Witnesses expressed concern about the
future of this good work once funding for NCCARF ceased, and especially about
the capacity of decision makers to make evidence based decisions.
The Greens regard this year’s cessation of NCCARF’s funding
as a significant failure of the Commonwealth government. We believe one of the
recommendations of the committee should be that the government maintain the
National Climate Change Adaptation Facility for a second 5 years funding round.
That the Commonwealth government protect communities from
extreme weather by increasing expenditure on pre-disaster resilience to around
$350 million a year. A National Resilience Advisory Group should be
established to ensure supported projects are appropriately prioritised and
Maintain funding of the National Climate Change
Adaptation Research Facility for further 5 years.
Senator for Tasmania
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