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An alliance of emergency responders, diplomats, defence personnel and healthcare professionals is calling on Australia’s next government to urgently prioritise action on climate change.
In an open letter to “the incoming prime minister”, the group asks the next government to make combating global warming its top priority and to allocate all necessary resources to decarbonise the Australian economy as soon as possible.
The potential threats of not doing so, beyond an increase in natural disasters and extreme weather events, include reducing Australia’s international standing, compromising national security, the loss of native wildlife and the emergence of more animal-borne diseases.
Former inspector-general of biosecurity Helen Scott-Orr said recent detections of Japanese encephalitis as far south as Victoria and South Australia was evidence of the threat posed by a changing climate and the impact on migratory patterns of rising global temperatures.
Emissions reduction is one thing, but the carbon dioxide that has already been emitted poses another problem, she said.
“We’ve got to be drawing it down. Plants are the most efficient way to draw this down … the amount of carbon that can be sequestered in soil is huge if agricultural and waste management practices are changed,” Dr Scott-Orr said on Tuesday.
Diplomats for Climate Action Now convenor Richard Matthews said Australia was globally regarded as lagging on climate.
“That has a negative effect on our international relationships … we’re going to be punished internationally,” he said.
“Major trading partners will impose border adjustment taxes. These are carbon taxes, which will not benefit Australians.”
Former Fire & Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins said it is getting harder to react to natural disasters.
“Emergency services can no longer cope with the worst screams that Mother Nature throws at us,” he said.
“We want the incoming prime minister to treat the climate emergency as an existential threat and take the appropriate action.”
The policy the Liberal Party is taking to the election relies on existing and future technology to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030, investing in hydrogen, energy storage, and carbon capture and sequestration to do so.
Labor’s climate action plan focuses on electricity grid upgrades, discounts for electric cars, funding to support industries to improve energy efficiency, community batteries and banking of power from Australia’s already world-leading uptake of rooftop solar.
It is also spruiking apprenticeships and skills programs focused on “new energy” with a goal of lowering emissions 43 per cent by 2030.
Both parties are facing competition in a number of seats from independents who have placed climate action at the top of their agenda.
The Greens are hoping to increase their influence in parliament by targeting a number of formerly safe Liberal and Labor seats in Victoria and Queensland.
Whoever forms government may have to negotiate with a climate-focused crossbench.
(Australian Associated Press)