The facts are clear, so we must act to save the planet
MONDAY, 30/5/2011 Julia Gillard
Last Monday, I received a report from the Climate Commission confirming again that climate change is real. It also provided very real evidence that we need to act now.
Not in a couple of generations' time, or even a couple of years' time, but now.
What the report shows is that in the last 50 years the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. Australian natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef are already being damaged, and the risk of coastal flooding could double by the end of the century.
Most significantly, the report says the greatest contributor to recent climate change is carbon pollution caused by humans.
Another report by Geoscience Australia shows that if sea levels rise by 1.1m because of climate change and we have an extreme weather event, this would have significant impacts on Victoria's commercial, industrial and transport infrastructure.
The report says 10 Local Government Areas would be impacted, including Melbourne, Wellington, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast and Frankston.
These reports are not the first of their kind. They build on past work from scientists around the world who have been tracking the effects of climate change for years.
And like ones past, these research papers have been peer-reviewed by other scientists to make sure the findings are accurate.
With the science so clear we shouldn't waste time on shock jocks or politicians who rely on false claims to run their scare campaigns. They quote one crank or another in the same way people have argued the world is flat.
My Government will take advice from respected professionals whose credibility is properly scrutinised.
And I will implement the right plan to cut carbon pollution and reduce the effects we are having on the climate.
The best way to cut carbon pollution is to make up to 1000 of our biggest polluters pay for every tonne of carbon pollution they generate.
Not households. Not small businesses. Just the top 1000 polluters. We know some industries will pass some of these costs onto consumers, which is why we will give more than half of the money raised back to families who need the most help with their cost of living.
The rest will go to supporting jobs in existing industries and creating new jobs by investing in clean energy programs and technology.
PUTTING a price on carbon pollution means companies will look to cut that cost to their business by decreasing their pollution - so much so that we are confident our plan will reduce Australia's emissions by 160 million tonnes in 2020.
This is equivalent to taking 50 million polluting cars off our roads in 2020.
For the first few years of the scheme, the price per tonne of pollution paid by big polluters will be fixed, working effectively like a tax.
After that, a cap will be put on the amount of pollution that these polluters can generate, and a market will exist in which firms will buy and sell permits to emit a tonne of pollution.
In this emissions trading scheme, companies that find ways to reduce their pollution will make money by selling permits to pollute, and big polluters will have to spend money to buy permits. The forces of supply and demand for permits will set the price. But the golden rule will be: the less a firm pollutes, the better off it is.
Overwhelmingly, our nation wants to act on climate change - but some worry it won't be good for us if we get out in front of the world.
They don't have to worry, because the world is moving too.
Just this month, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative leader, pledged to cut his country's emissions by half by 2027.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, another Conservative leader, is enhancing a carbon trading scheme that has been in place there since 2008.
And yet here in Australia, we still haven't taken action despite the fact we are the highest carbon polluter per person in the developed world.
We can't stand by and continue to pollute at levels above everyone else, especially because we generate more pollution per person than all other developed countries.
We want to stay in step with the world so we can capitalise on the clean-energy jobs that come with this new future.
Tony Abbott is pretending he has a plan to tackle climate change.
But it's a plan that the experts tell us won't work. Last week's Climate Commission report made it clear that it will never be enough to effectively cut carbon pollution levels.
And Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear that it's a plan that will mean mums and dads who pay tax will endlessly subsidise big businesses that pollute.
It's a plan that would mean families would either have to pay more tax or services would have to be slashed.
It's the kind of plan you cook up when you don't take climate change seriously and you don't believe it's real.
If you believe climate change is real, then you can't shirk the responsibility to put a price on carbon and do the right thing for our economy, for jobs and for the environment.
Today I'll be visiting students that have taken a pledge to reduce their personal carbon footprint by one tonne in one year.
It's part of a campaign that brings together young women with their mothers and grandmothers in a bid to tackle climate change together.
They are called One Million Women because they aim to sign up over a million Australian women - a simple concept but a powerful example of people coming together to drive change for the better.
We all have to work together to address climate change. And I believe Australians are ready to make this change because we want our sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters, to live in a country with a clean-energy economy, that drives green innovation and still has natural wonders that are the envy of the rest of the world.
This article was first publish in the Herald Sun.