Climate Change and the Environment
Restoring a safe climate is an emergency that demands action at all levels of government. Climate breakdown threatens human safety and biodiversity, and carries huge economic cost. Technological advancements unavoidably impact the natural environment, but we can minimise these, as well as rapidly transition to clean energy to uncouple economic activity from pollution.
Please see our energy policy for our policies on renewables, nuclear power, and fossil fuels; energy storage; and the electricity grid.
1. Climate Change
1.1: Declare a climate emergency to acknowledge the dire state of the climate.
The recognition of the critical and urgent nature of the climate crisis should carry with it an obligation to take the actions needed to combat climate change.
In order to restore and maintain a safe climate it is necessary to not only reduce greenhouse emissions, but reduce absolute atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to known-safe levels.
1.2: Introduce a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme to efficiently incentivise low-carbon alternatives and reduce emissions to net zero by the year 2040. The collected revenue should be spent on environmental initiatives, particularly carbon-negative activities.
1.3: Support our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region by collaborating on projects to mitigate emissions and to adapt to a changing climate.
1.4: Our commitment to increasing research funding extends to research into the specifics of how climate change is likely to damage various sectors of the economy and the environment. This should include increased research into geoengineering — large scale climate modification, however, we unequivocally oppose conducting any large geoengineering interventions until very thorough research is complete on the risks and alternatives.
1.5: Restore funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the CSIRO and the re-establishment of the Climate Change Commission to oversee and report on the policy implementation framework.
Australia must be aware of the impact of climate change on our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region, who will suffer some of the most extreme effects of climate change despite contributing very little to greenhouse gas emissions.
Our planet is warming at an accelerating rate, correlating closely with the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere due to human activity.
Climate change should not be viewed as a purely environmental problem. The cost of climate change will be, and is already, human. Our health and economic productivity is already suffering from changes in climate that we are not prepared for.
The 2018 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Global Warming of 1.5°C, projects dramatic changes to our natural and built environments, even if we immediately take drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The carbon price that was in place in Australia in 2012–2013 was intended to transition to a cap-and-trade scheme, but was repealed before the transition was made. While the carbon pricing scheme was in place, though, it was associated with a reduction in Australia’s carbon emissions.
A cap-and-trade emissions scheme need not be introduced with high prices to begin with; the aim is to lower the cap and raise the price of polluting over time. While every tonne of emissions avoided right now helps our environmental position, economic incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also:
- Incentivises private investment in technological solutions to reducing emissions, and disincentivise investment in the most intensely-polluting technologies (such as thermal coal mines and power stations);
- Lays social and regulatory groundwork for reductions in carbon emissions. It is easier to go to a high emissions price from a modest one than from none at all; and
- Makes global political compromise possible. We cannot expect countries that are poorer and emit less per capita than us to make serious efforts to limit their emissions before we do. Cutting our emissions now is the minimum gesture required to establish good faith for negotiations for other countries to limit and cut theirs.
2.1: End logging of native forests.
The Australian Government's State of the Environment report (2006) estimated that 22% of Australia’s native woodlands have been felled since European settlement ("Indicator: LD-01 The proportion and area of native vegetation and changes over time"). Clearing of native forests threatens biodiversity. The Science Party sees native forest logging as being of low value to the economy while having significant impact on the environment. We see the future of the Australian timber industry being based on farmed forests.
3. Genetically Modified Organisms
3.1: Support for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for research and industry use. GMOs must conform to:
- Standards for environmental protection:
- GMOs should not be introduced into areas where they are likely to interact genetically with native species in environmentally protected areas. It is important that protected areas remain protected from pollution, including introduced genetic material.
- Food safety standards:
- Organisms used in food production will not be genetically modified to produce compounds that are harmful to humans. Food production includes grains produced as feed for animals.
- Organisms that are genetically modified to produce poisonous compounds or drugs will be required to be secured in such a way as to prevent cross pollination to other crops.
3.2: Organisms are not to be genetically modified to create weapons for biological warfare or to create intentional harm. Such modifications may include, but are not limited to, using GMOs to produce poisons for warfare, or modifying infectious agents to create new viral weapons.
GMOs represent the next step in the agricultural revolution (or 'green revolution'). The Third Agricultural Revolution of the mid-20th century allowed great leaps in the ability to produce food, which averted the famine previously predicted to accompany the population growth of the 20th century. GMOs, if used correctly, hold the promise of creating greater quantities of more healthful food for the whole world.
GMOs also hold the potential of solving other problems, such as by creating plants that can produce new drugs.
While researchers should be free to research GMOs, there should be limits on this research (just as there is on all types of research) where harm to humans or the environment is possible.
The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) is the body currently responsibly for approving the release of GMOs from the lab into the environment.
Regarding nuclear energy, please see our Science and Research and Energy policies.
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