SPEECH: Climate Emergency and the Greens' battery storage fund

Today Mark spoke about the climate emergency and outlined the Australian Greens' plan for a $2.2 billion fund for household battery storage. 

As we get closer to the next Federal election, it is clear the response from Australian political parties to the climate emergency will be more significant than ever.

Across the nation, Australians are increasingly frustrated at the lack of real action to reduce our emissions and do our fair share in dealing with a world-wide threat to our environment, our economy and our society.  Australians are looking for leadership from the Federal Liberal Government and the State Government but they’re not getting it. 

More and more Australians are saying that they don’t want new coal mines.  They don’t want fracking for gas and they certainly don’t want drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, which has appalling local risks as well as global climate implications.

In just a few months, most Australians will get to have their say at the ballot box. 

But what about those who are too young to vote?

Last year, I moved a motion in Parliament to Congratulate school students who left their classrooms and went on strike to protest on the steps of State Parliament about government inaction on climate change.

As I told Parliament at the time, about 500 students participated in the November 30th strike and rally. 

Now if we fast forward just four and a half months to 15th March 2019, we saw that 5,000 students and other South Australians took part in Adelaide alone – a 10-fold increase.  In over 100 places around Australia, students went on strike, in far greater numbers than they had just a few months before.

Young people are motivated, and they are informed.  As one of the students noted to a dismissive politician, “If you don’t want us protesting, either do your job properly, or stop teaching us science, because the science of human-induced climate change is now beyond doubt.”

Young people know that we are in a climate emergency and until they are old enough to vote, they have to find other ways to get their message across.

The young people who spoke at the Adelaide Rally were articulate, they were passionate and they were determined that politicians should listen to their concerns.

After all, many of these young people will still be alive in the year 2100, long after every state and federal politician is dead and gone.  One primary school kid I spoke to will only be 90 at the turn of the next century!  Decisions we make now will determine the world that she grows up in.

When I last spoke about the school climate strike, I noted the dismissive and patronising response from the Prime Minister and other senior government figures, chastising the children and telling them to stay in school. 

This time, their reaction, whilst hardly encouraging, was a great deal more muted.  They know that most of these kids have the support of their parents and their parents DO vote.

So, this coming Federal election will focus on climate change like never before.

As always, the Greens will be leading with a comprehensive package of measures that moves Australia to zero net emissions faster than any other Party.  We Greens understand climate change, we understand the urgency of the situation and we are prepared to offer leadership and make the changes necessary for Australia to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Just this week, we launched an election commitment for the rapid rollout of household batteries, which are the natural complement to roof top solar.  Storing solar energy for use at night or during peak demand is one of the best ways to ensure that Australian families have access to energy that is affordable and reliable.

However, despite a tripling of battery installations in the last year, the industry is still developing and prices aren’t yet low enough for everyone to be able to benefit.  That’s why the Greens want to see $2.2 billion invested over the next four years in helping households, especially low-income households, to install home batteries.  With appropriate incentives, the Greens believe we can get the payback period for these batteries down to 3 years.

In many ways, this scheme is the parallel to the scheme championed by the Greens in South Australia a decade ago in relation to solar panels.  By providing appropriate support to households, we kicked off a solar energy revolution that ultimately saw nearly a third of all houses in the State with solar panels.  The feed-in scheme helped employ thousands of South Australians and kick-started a key industry that is now able to stand on its own two feet.  The Greens’ scheme reduced emissions, save households millions in electricity bills and helped reduce spending on public infrastructure that would have cost South Australians many billions of dollars.

Whilst we can’t possibly imagine what the world will be like in the year 2100, we know that it will depend in large measure on the decisions that we make today.

Governments can make bad investments or they can make good ones.  They can take climate change seriously or leave it to the next generation to try to sort out.  We know, however, that by then it will be too late.

So, my commitment to the young people of South Australia is that the Greens are listening to you. We do take climate change seriously and we are taking action.

Watch my speech on YouTube

Find out more about the Green's election commitment on the fund for battery storage