HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [10.09 pm]: I rise to make some comments. This is the first opportunity that I have had to respond to what I think has been a disgraceful response to the Environmental Protection Authority’s “Technical Guidance: Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions” and the “Environmental Factor Guideline: Greenhouse Gas Emissions”. Together, these two documents solidify the approach that the EPA has been taking towards large greenhouse gas–emitting projects for nearly the last 20 years. The Greens welcome the focus on greenhouse gases and climate change as a distinct environmental factor that needs to be addressed outside of air quality.
Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions and it is an emergency. It has been an increasing emergency for decades and we have failed to address it for decades. The impacts of our failures are being felt now. We keep having the hottest summers on record and extreme weather events are happening more regularly and with more power behind them. If anyone here has bothered to read the technical guidance, they will see exactly how useless our current regulatory framework is. There is a void where we need to have national action. One-third of our non–electricity generating facilities have applied to increase their baseload rate of carbon emissions, and two-thirds of those applications have been approved. So instead of reducing our carbon emissions, we are increasing them, and Western Australia’s have been increasing at the fastest rate. We are the only Australian jurisdiction to see a substantial increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2016. I am talking about a 27 per cent increase. This is the outrage. This is what we should all be losing our minds over, not the absolute garbage that people have been coming out with. Governments have been letting people down on this issue for far too long.
Quite simply, the EPA is acting because—guess what?—somebody has to. The reaction that we have seen reported over the last few days makes it quite clear that this government, despite all its claims about taking climate change seriously, still is not going to do it either. The technical guidance simply says that big emitters—we are talking about 100 000 tonnes per annum of the equivalent of carbon dioxide—must offset their net direct emissions with verifiably effective offsets. We are not talking about some sort of imaginary, hand-waving, magical technologies that do not even exist yet. We should be asking why this has not been done yet. The outrage should be about why this has not been done already, not promising them that they will not have to spend what constitutes a few per cent of their reported annual profits on getting their annual emissions under control.
The other part of the technical guidance is about increasing transparency. We are talking about requiring companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions and what they are doing to reduce and offset those emissions. Why would anyone object to that? They would have to be out of their mind. If we are taking climate change as seriously as we absolutely need to, this is another essential requirement. We need to know that rules are in place that will make a difference and that the big companies—or should I say the big donors—will be held to those rules. We have seen the government fall over itself this week to avoid doing anything about climate change. We have seen front pages emblazoned with promises to do nothing and to change nothing: “It’s okay everybody; we will not be doing a thing about climate change. Nobody needs to panic.” We have seen the government promise industry that it will ignore the best available science to ensure that everybody can continue as normal with no change: “Do not worry; everybody can continue to have their heads in the sand.”
We must have a reality check around this issue. For coming up to 30 years, these companies are meant to have been already complying with the rules designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions built into their risk assessment frameworks. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992, when a couple of members in this place were still toddlers. The Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 and entered into force in 2005—14 years ago. The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. None of this should be a surprise. The only surprise in any of this, quite frankly, is that, finally, the Environmental Protection Authority has stood and done something in 2019, which is 27 years after the UN framework was signed. For that, I do not condemn it. I applaud it. About time, I say. Whilst everyone else might be happy to watch the world burn, I am not. We are already so far beyond the point at which soft measures are appropriate that we even have our kids coming out and rallying to protect their futures, which this lot is apparently hell-bent on denying them. I am telling members that we need to get a grip on this and protect the future for which our kids are striking out. We need to bring clear eyes and the support of our best minds to this matter. The EPA apparently understands this and it is about time that everybody else in this place and the government and the federal government understands it too.