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Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:20): I rise to speak in support of the motion moved by my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks. Ongoing investments in fossil fuels by Australian governments put us not just at odds with the science but with the rest of the world. They pose a threat to our trade and our economy as well as to our climate.

In South Australia we have declared a climate emergency and it is now time for us to declare our support for a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty. This would be an empowering next step for our state, demonstrating how even small jurisdictions can lead the way by joining with other cities, states and nations around the world to speak with one clear voice.

We all know the historical and ongoing contribution fossil fuels make to climate change, and this industry—one that is aided by the Australian government, propped up by both of the major political parties—has ongoing expansion plans. We cannot accept this and so instead we are calling for a solution that matches the scale of the problem. We must cooperate globally to address this global problem and everybody, every state, every city, every individual has a role to play. In the words of Professor Lesley Hughes:

…every fraction of a degree of warming is doing us harm. This means that every day we delay cessation of fossil fuel burning, we come closer to catastrophe.

It is people who created this crisis and it is the people who must stop it. Our state has a proven capacity to be a renewable energy powerhouse and I do recognise the work of all sides of politics in this regard. We are a state that is largely powered by the sun and the wind and soon will be powered by hydrogen as well. But emissions and their impacts—whether they are generated here or by other states—do not stop at our borders.

What happens in one place affects us all. Indeed, that has been the story of this climate crisis. While South Australia has been a leader when it comes to renewable energy, our federal government continues to subsidise the fossil fuel industry to the tune of about $10.3 billion per year. Who can forget the forgotten years, the forgotten decade under the failed leadership of Scott Morrison, the do-nothing Malcolm Turnbull and the hopeless Tony Abbott.

We must therefore call on all of our colleagues, both interstate and federally, to face the reality that climate change is here, and to avoid making it worse we need to keep coal and gas in the ground. To that end, earlier today I introduced a private member's bill to ban gas connections to new homes from 2025 as part of the Greens leadership in this place in taking action on this climate crisis.

Any ongoing fossil fuel extraction and burning would deny us the chance of a safe climate future. By advocating for this treaty, South Australia could join the ACT and be a pillar of a strong national and international approach to pursuing efforts to limit temperature increases to 1.5º above pre-industrial levels.

We have had some incentives, but we need more. We need incentives for sustainable transformation of the energy sector in our state but with that it is clear that we also need disincentives, the carrot and the stick, to deal with the consumption and the production of fossil fuels. The ongoing extraction of fossil fuels via coalmining and oil and gas extraction, including coal seam gas, shale gas, tight gas, shale oil and underground coal gasification, pose unacceptable risks to Australia's land, our water and our industries, such as agriculture, grazing and tourism.

We need to take this seriously. How long can we watch our communities be consumed by flames and floods at an ever-increasing rate? These disasters are not inevitable. We must demand a different path, one that embraces renewable energy sources and that allows our communities to live in harmony with ecosystems and thrive within the limits of our planet. After all, it is this planet that constrains us all. A fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty is the next logical step on such a pathway. I commend the motion.