MP wants conscience vote on climate bill

Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall says climate change is a ‘moral issue’ and a question ‘of our ultimate long-term safety’.

Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall says climate change is a ‘moral issue’ and a question ‘of our ultimate long-term safety’. Photo: AAP

Zali Steggall has dared the prime minister to allow a conscience vote on her climate change bill if he’s not willing to step up on action himself.

The independent MP for Warringah will introduce her climate change bill to parliament on Monday, having delayed the plan because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The draft legislation would rubber-stamp net zero emissions by 2050 and set up a Climate Change Commission.

Both Liberal and Labor state governments across the country have adopted the 2050 goal but Prime Minister Scott Morrison won’t budge.

“If he’s not willing to step up with the coalition government, then open it up to a conscience vote,” Ms Steggall told ABC radio.

“Let MPs represent their electorates because climate change is a moral issue. It’s a question of our ultimate long-term safety.”

Senior cabinet minister Simon Birmingham has poured cold water on hopes the government will back it, saying he hasn’t read the detail.

The Morrison government is at odds with Australia’s major trading partners by not adopting the 2050 goal, with president-elect Joe Biden promising to sign up the US.

The government instead points to the Paris Agreement’s goal of achieving net zero emissions in the second half of the century but Ms Steggall says that’s a misdirection.

The global pact aims to keep global warming as close to 1.5C as possible and to do so countries need to reduce emissions faster.

The US will rejoin the Paris deal under Mr Biden’s leadership, having exited the climate agreement under the Trump administration.

Ms Steggall’s bill also include risk assessments so Australians would know the impact climate change would have across the economy.

She’s also included the government’s technology roadmap in the draft legislation.

“There is nothing outlandish about this bill – this is a framework that sets in place good governance and good accountability of government.”

Ms Steggall said the cost of not acting was far greater than acting and MPs would eventually have to answer to their electorates.

“This is not a problem that’s going away.”

Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler has long been calling on the government to support net zero by 2050, saying it will help in the race for jobs and investment for clean energy.

“To get to the starting line in that race requires Australia to commit to net zero emissions by 2050,” he told reporters in Canberra.

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