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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 15 October 2009) . . Page.. 4599 ..

I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

Just a decade into its third millennium the modern world faces its greatest challenge and perhaps its greatest opportunity. For it is how the global community reacts to the threat of global warming that will determine the shape of all future human existence. The US President, Barack Obama, recently told world leaders:

… the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing. Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it—boldly, swiftly and together—we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.

The ACT Labor government accepts this challenge and it has already embarked upon an ambitious reform agenda and has already determined that Canberra will set the standard for a truly sustainable city.

Today I wish to outline to the Assembly 10 critical insights that I have gained as a result of a recent visit to the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany and to advise how these lessons will be applied to further enhance the ACT government’s response to the challenge posed by climate change.

The value of this visit was incalculable. Face-to-face discussions with some of the world’s foremost policy makers and practitioners and the ability to see firsthand what their policies are delivering on the ground have convinced me further that there are significant opportunities to be grasped here in Canberra and significant gains to be achieved in the area of energy efficiency and in the deployment of renewable energy projects.

Firstly, let me focus on the issue that we must always choose action over inaction. There is no excuse for inaction on this issue. It is time to reject once and for all the arguments that the ACT is too small to matter, that its responses are inconsequential so we should simply ride on the coat-tails of the rest of Australia or indeed the rest of the world.

The arguments in favour of the do nothing, wait and hope approach seem to be built around three points: firstly, that the commonwealth’s carbon pollution reduction scheme, or the CPRS, is so badly designed that any extra emissions saved in the ACT will simply free up extra permits for polluters in other states; secondly, that tough local targets confuse the community, given their lack of understanding of the CPRS, and this will destroy willingness to act in ways that can help reduce Australia’s emissions; and, thirdly, efforts to meet tough targets will come at a significant cost to ACT residents and the ACT government, without any significant benefit.

These arguments are dangerous and they are wrong. The ACT government recognises the shortcomings of the proposed CPRS and of the cost imposts that it would place upon state and territory budgets. We have consistently raised these concerns with the commonwealth and will continue to do so. And we are not acting alone; other jurisdictions have similar concerns.

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