ELECTION 2022: The next federal government must deliver on Australia’s Sustainable Development Goals agreement to reach 2030 targets.

It’s election time and public criticism has been fierce and fast as our leaders face off to address voter concerns – from cost-of-living pressures to climate change, and deliver on previous promises while remaining aligned with party lines.

As we move through the decade, it is time to deliver on Australia’s 2030 targets in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Through decisive, effective and sustainable long-term investment, we can “build back better” and address national shortcomings to future-proof local communities, jobs and economies.

Now is the time to ensure that Australia positions itself as a leading economy, based on the principles of sustainable development. The Solomon Islands’ new security pact with China and last month’s deferral of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s A-status reaccreditation are just two examples pointing at the size of the challenge ahead. 

The government-elect has the opportunity to demonstrate its strong intent towards reaching its 2030 commitment and cement a roadmap that specifically outlines an effective approach to achieve this. This relies on: 

  • supporting a coordinated path to decarbonisation and a just transition
  • establishing a smart mix of policies that support international frameworks like the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • committing to stronger governance mechanisms for global issues such as anti-bribery and corruption.

Specifically, we urge the government-elect to review its commitment to net-zero by 2050 and set ambitious intermediary climate targets to support the path to decarbonisation.

This starts with a review of Australia’s nationally determined contributions to ensure that they are in line with the Paris Agreement before the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November 2022. Meeting the 2050 net-zero target can only be achieved if robust targets for 2030 are in place. 

The upcoming federal election offers a renewed opportunity for both parties to announce their longer-term vision to address the 2030 agenda, in alignment with the 17 SDGs, a commitment that the Australian Government signed up to in 2015. 

UN Global Compact Network Australia (UNGCNA) has developed the below recommendations to inform Federal action in line with SDGs as voters call for decisive and effective action from their leaders.

Achieve urgent and meaningful climate action (SDG13)

1. Set ambitious intermediary climate targets to support the path to decarbonisation

UNGCNA urges the government to review its nationally determined contributions in line with the Paris Agreement before COP 27 in Cairo in December 2022. Meeting the 2050 net-zero target can only be achieved if initial targets for 2030 are in place. 

2. Support a just transition with a national fossil-fuel exit plan

With some of Australia’s largest coal-fired power stations now closing early, like Origin Energy’s Eraring, AGL’s Lidell and Loy Yang, entire communities are at risk of socio-economic impacts such as job losses, regional economic losses and increasing mental health challenges. 

A national exit plan will incentivise businesses to create robust transition plans that support thriving local economies. 

In addition, UNGCNA urges the Federal Government to adopt the Just Transition Declaration:

  1. Ensure funds are allocated to support vulnerable workers, communities and regions in carbon-intensive economies.
  2. Implement stronger incentives for businesses to operate in affected regions, prioritising green economies.

3. Setting a price on carbon

It is fundamental in the transition to a decarbonised economy and will accelerate the achievement of net-zero emissions. There is a suite of instruments available to the government that support the reduction of emissions. 

A price on carbon will provide far clearer market indicators and can more efficiently direct investments into clean energy projects and in innovative technologies. It will also enable Australia to remain competitive on the global stage as carbon border adjustment mechanisms are discussed in the EU and the UK. 

4. Invest into large scale renewable energy infrastructure: 

With the cost of oil and gas likely to increase and renewable energy prices continuing to drop, the UNGCNA urges the government to include a budget for large-scale, renewable energy infrastructure. This includes rail, electric vehicle infrastructure and an upgrade of Australia’s electricity grid that supports renewable energy security.

The government should also consider stronger incentives for households to participate in the green economy through subsidies for electric vehicles, solar and battery storage.

Protecting human rights (SDG8 and SDG10

5. Funding to support the Customs Amendment (Banning Goods Produced By Uyghur Forced Labour) Bill 2020 

Modern slavery, including forced labour, constitute serious crimes under Australian law and violate a person’s human rights and dignity. As such, it is critical that the government table the bill in parliament and ensure adequate funding is set aside to fulfil its recommendations once passed into law.

6. Review of the Modern Slavery Act

With the review of the Act announced in March, it will be important to ensure adequate funding is set aside to fulfil the recommendations from the review. This includes:

  1. Considering the relevant recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission in their report on Corporate Criminal Responsibility that was tabled in Parliament on 31 August 2020
  2. Increasing funding for the Business Engagement Unit at Australian Border Force to enable Australia to meet its commitments under its National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-25, and ensure that the Unit has the capacity to continue to engage with businesses to reduce modern slavery and human trafficking, particularly in business supply chains
  3. Consulting with industry experts, business, the Australian Human Rights Commission, academia and civil society on changes to the Australian Modern Slavery Act that will position Australia as a leader in combatting modern slavery (SDG 8.7)

7. Continue to fund and give a greater voice to the Australian Human Rights Commission

In doing so, the government will be in a stronger position to demonstrate its duty to protect human rights and uphold international frameworks on human rights, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

UNGCNA is concerned by the deferral of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) A-status reaccreditation and we support the Australian Government promptly considering how it will respond. If the AHRC loses its A-status, Australia would lose its right to fully participate in international dialogues such as the UN Human Rights Council.

8. Adopt a National Charter of Human Rights

Australia is one of few Western democracies that does not have a national charter of human rights, despite the ACT and Victoria both having charters. 

A charter would help Australians understand their human rights and provide a standard from which to measure government action. It would also act as a lighthouse on human rights for businesses. 

A firm stance against bribery and corruption (SDG16)

9. Establish the Commonwealth Integrity Commission

Spinifex is an opinion column open to all our readers. We require 700+ words on issues related to sustainability especially in the built environment and in business. Contact us to submit your column or for a more detailed brief.

UNGCNA is supportive of the government’s commitment to establishing a CIC. Now, the UNGCNA is calling for the CIC to be prioritised and tabled in parliament, taking into consideration the feedback received by the Attorney General’s Department and numerous stakeholders such as businesses and civil society. 

10. Reintroduce and pass the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combating Corporate Crime) Bill 2019

If passed, the CLACCC bill would be the most significant shift in Australia’s anti-corruption landscape since foreign bribery offence was first introduced in 1999. The law reform presents an opportunity for corporations to be more responsible and accountable, ensuring they have adequate procedures in place to combat corporate corruption.
Read more on the detailed recommendations.

Corinne Schoch

Corinne Schoch, head of programmes at UN Global Compact Network Australia. More by Corinne Schoch

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