ZALI STEGGALL’S CLIMATE BILL: The government has badly misfired on rejecting Zali Steggall’s climate bills – especially in lumping all sectors in together, according to built environment leaders and business advocates
Legislation intended to provide a more unified approach to climate change has been knocked back by the government, despite broad industry support for a national legislative framework.
Introduced by independent MP Zali Steggall in November last year, the Climate Change Bills called for a clear climate policy framework that legislates net zero by 2050 and introduces an independent advisory body, similar to that of the UK.
The proposed laws were referred to an inquiry by the government-led Committee on Environment and Energy, which lasted more than six months and received over 6500 submissions from the public, business and industry representatives.
This week, the committee recommended the bills not be adopted, despite the vast majority of submissions supporting their directives.
Among those backing changes to the federal government’s approach were the Business Council of Australia, Responsible Investment Association of Australasia and Australian Industry Group.
“Never has a Liberal government been so out of step with the Australian business and investment community on a key issue as the current Government led by Scott Morrison,” Ms Steggall said.
While the government is providing $20 billion worth of funding to support the development of new low-emissions technologies, representatives from across a range of sectors, including business, science, health and finance say Australia’s net zero transition is suffering from a lack of leadership.
Representing the Business Council of Australia in a submission to the inquiry, chief executive Jennifer Westacott said what investors want from national climate policy is a clearly articulated policy destination and pathway for getting there.
“Having a very clear set of government policy ‘goal posts’ would enable company directors to focus their resources and efforts more efficiently with respect to climate related transition risks,’ Ms Westacott said.
What it means for our industry
Built environment leaders supported the bills, saying despite accounting for around a quarter of Australia’s emissions, the sector was already decarbonising and would benefit from the legislative support of government.
Sustainability and built environment expert Maria Atkinson said a clear national approach to emissions reductions should take a sector by sector view. Some industries such as fossil fuels were likely to get worse before they got better, however others, including buildings, were already way ahead of the curve.
“The key thing is all sectors having a pathway to zero emissions, because you would treat different sectors according to their emission trajectories,” Ms Atkinson said.
“So, for buildings, you would expect it to be one of the first because the industry’s ready, we know what we need to do, and a whole bunch of companies make commitments to the pathway anyhow.”
Green Building Council of Australia chief executive Davina Rooney said her organisation advocated for a national target of net zero emissions and a sector-specific plan for net zero buildings by 2050.
“Industry requires clear, strong and effective policies, underpinned by long-term clarity on the regulatory landscape,” Rooney said.
“In the built environment research shows that reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is achievable with known technologies, alongside job creation opportunities and improvements for households and businesses.”
The push for a national legislative framework on climate change is expected to continue, with Ms Stegall intending to incorporate amendments suggested through the inquiry process to further improve the bills.
Chief executive of the national employer association Ai Group, Innes Willox added that while the decision not adopt the Steggall legislation was a missed opportunity, other options remained.
“There are other options for the government to achieve the same ends through its own policy measures: adoption of a firmer commitment to net zero emissions by 2050; strengthening the advisory role of the existing Climate Change Authority; and taking a more rigorous Budget-style process to emissions policy,” Mr Willox said.
“The government’s long term strategy for emissions reduction, expected in coming months, should take these steps.”