Climate Change: Moral and Economic Imperative

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (19:50): Today I saw pictures of a sign installed at the site of a former glacier in Iceland. It reads:

Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and we know what needs to be done. Only you will know if we did it.

This is what is at stake. This issue is what will define our generation and our governments. Did we act to combat climate change when we knew the consequences of inaction? We are already seeing the impact of climate change across Australia. In my home state of Queensland, Binna Burra Lodge, in the Gold Coast hinterland, stood for 90 years. This year it burned down, and now 70 people have lost their jobs. It is in rainforest that burned down just a week after the end of winter. This is not just a usual environmental cycle. Prolonged droughts, floods and fires right across Australia, from Tasmania to Queensland, have yielded one-in-100-year malevolences that are now happening every year. That is why today Labor moved to declare a climate emergency to recognise that we need urgent action on climate change and that it cannot wait while this government is locked in internal conflict and paralysis on energy policy.

Labor remains committed to implementing the principles of the Paris Agreement. We are committed to a mid-century target of zero emissions and strong medium-term targets consistent with our international obligations. But action on climate change is not just limited to the big policy issues, like our energy supply. Urgent action is also needed at a local level. I have been told by my constituents at mobile offices in Wavell Heights that local services, particularly NGOs, are exhausted and they are struggling. They need more funding to account for the fact that these natural disasters are more frequent and are now a year-round occurrence.

Climate change is not just a moral imperative but also an economic imperative. We cannot stand by and allow our economy and our workers to be unprepared for the global shift in energy supply. We need a just transition and investment in the renewable energy sector. Fighting for good jobs in that sector is paramount, and that's what Labor is going to do. In Queensland, the Labor state government is leading the way on the creation of renewable jobs. There is the new $350 million wind farm south-west of Gladstone, which will create up to 150 construction jobs and 15 ongoing jobs and add to the big surge in wind power now coming online in our state. There is the Mount Emerald wind farm south of Cairns, which will power 75,000 homes and create 150 construction jobs. The Coopers Gap wind farm, under construction, will power 264,000 homes. In total, the current renewables projects in Queensland will provide 4,500 construction jobs and hundreds of ongoing jobs.

Locally, in my electorate of Lilley, there are renewable companies like GEM Energy, a solar power and battery company that started out in Emerald in Queensland and now has offices on the north side of Brisbane, in Lilley, and also in Darwin. They've grown from a team of five to have over 60 direct employees whose jobs range from engineering and electrical to sales and administration. The stories from GEM Energy show us that renewable energy has a bright future for Australian workers. Aaron, who was working in an insurance call centre, living near the poverty line, started his career in solar energy and moved up through the industry over the last 10 years to become the sales manager for GEM. Solar has allowed him and his family a life and a home in Boondall, easily one of the top five suburbs in Lilley. Young men have gone from casual warehouse work to completing electrical apprenticeships in solar. Older workers struggling to find work can retrain and find good full-time and permanent jobs in the solar industry. We need to support these jobs of the future for our young people in need of permanent and meaningful work and the older workers needing a new industry to utilise their skills and experience.

As I said in my first speech to parliament, I am here to be a good ancestor. I am here to champion the long term over the short term. I am here to ensure that the fact that Australia became the first country to lose a mammal to climate change doesn't go unnoticed and that we take action on the climate emergency that we all face.