Living with global warming

Ours is the driest inhabited continent on earth with huge coastal cities. We must urgently cut climate pollution, but some dangers are now inevitable. The Greens will double the number of firefighters and protect our communities, funded by a levy on thermal coal exports fuelling global warming.  

Backing firefighters and communities

We are already feeling the impacts of global warming.  This year, 2016, is set to be the hottest on record, breaking the records set in 2014 and again in 2015.  With just 1 degree of warming, we already have mass bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, and swathes of Tasmania’s ancient wilderness have burned out of control.  Global warming is also increasing the likelihood of catastrophic bushfires like the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009 which killed 173 people.

Dangerous global warming driven by pollution from burning fossil fuels represents a direct threat to Australia, already the driest inhabited continent on earth, and one with many millions of people living in coastal cities.  We have the tools to fix this crisis and there are immense opportunities in jobs-rich clean energy, but some impacts are already unavoidable.  The Greens have a plan to adapt to the impacts which are already “locked in”, including working to double career firefighters by 2030.

Backing our emergency workers - doubling career firefighters by 2030

The Greens support the call from the Climate Council for a doubling of the number of paid firefighters by 2030.  As the impacts of global warming intensify, the federal government must increase its contribution.

The Greens would make a federal contribution towards this goal of $120 million over the first four years, ramping up over the next 10 years from an additional $25 million per year in 2016-17 to $200 million per year by 2025-26, with further increases to 2030.  In the first year, the Greens’ plan would more than double the current federal contribution to firefighting resources to $43 million per year in total.  The federal contribution is just $18 million as of 2014-15.

Saving lives and saving money - preparing for natural disasters

In Australia, only a tiny proportion of natural disaster funding is spent on preparedness.  The Greens will provide for an increase of $200 million in federal funding over four years a new National Partnership Agreement on Climate Adaptation and Disaster Preparedness: Funding for the first four years would be $50 million per year, gradually ramping up over time to $200 million per year, meeting the Productivity Commission’s recommendation.

 This represents an increase on the current funding of $9 million per year by more than fivefold the first year, along with an expanded scope.   

Research on climate adaptation

The role of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) has been to lead the national research community in generating the information needed by decision-makers in government and in vulnerable sectors and communities to manage the risks of global warming’s impacts. Funding currently runs out in July 2017.  

Instead of allowing NCCARF’s funding to expire in 2017, the Greens would secure the future of NCCARF with a 5 year, $50 million commitment, at $10 million per year, to allow it to continue work including:

  • Improving and trialing the decision-support tool CoastAdapt to improve local planning.
  • Helping Australia’s Asia Pacific neighbors like Indonesia and PNG who are exposed to sea level rise to make good planning decisions, reducing the risk of severe displacement and disruption in the future.
  • Continuing to work with rural and regional communities on issues such as water security and bushfire risk.

Planning for rising seas

Australia has $226 billion worth of coastal infrastructure and homes at risk from coastal flooding, including railways, roads, houses, factories and offices.  

The Greens would establish a national coordinating body, the Office for Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise with a budget of $5 million per year to support State, Territory and local governments to plan for rising seas.  The office would lead ongoing assessments of the long-term implications of larger-than-expected sea level rise, including the concept of “planned retreat”.

Paying for the damage – a coal export levy

The mining and burning of coal, including from Australian coal exports is driving dangerous global warming which threatens to rob our children of their future.  Transitioning our domestic energy supply away from coal fired power is important, but it is not enough, since about 90% of all coal we dig up is exported, creating 1 billion tonnes of pollution per year.  

The Greens have announced a thermal coal export levy of $3 per tonne as part of our plan to save the Great Barrier Reef from global warming.  The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that the levy will raise $650 million a year from 2017, or $2.4 billion over the next 4 years.

A levy will reduce incentives for coal companies to ship as much coal as they can, at whatever price they can get.  It would not apply to destination countries with an effective price on pollution.  The levy would also help fund Australia’s transition to clean energy and climate finance for developing nations. 

Read our full plan

Photo Credit: Chris Ison, Australian Emergency Management Institute