Calls for climate change action erupt after Black Summer royal commission findings released

A bushfire burning out of control in Namadgi National Park in January. There have been calls for action on climate change to mitigate against fire seasons like last summer. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
A bushfire burning out of control in Namadgi National Park in January. There have been calls for action on climate change to mitigate against fire seasons like last summer. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Calls for the federal government to take significantly more drastic action on climate change have come in thick and fast following the release of a national disaster royal commission report on Friday.

Convened after the devastating Black Summer bushfires, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements determined the federal government needed to take a more active role during natural disasters.

It found the prime minister should be able to call a national state of emergency and warned extreme weather events would become more frequent due to global warming.

The royal commission called for greater modelling of climate change, how it would affect specific geographical areas and how to prepare for the impacts.

The findings prompted a broad range of emergency service stakeholders, politicians, environment groups and think tanks to call on the federal government to properly tackle climate change.

A group of former state fire and emergency chiefs welcomed the commission's findings that the Black Summer bushfires were fuelled by climate change.

A bushfire burning out of control in Namadgi National Park in January. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

A bushfire burning out of control in Namadgi National Park in January. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins said climate change was pushing Australia towards an uncertain future of unprecedented bushfire severity.

"The federal government absolutely must act on the root cause of worsening bushfires in Australia, and take urgent steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Mullins said.

"This clearly means no new coal or gas, and a rapid transition to renewable energy."

He committed to closely monitoring the government's response to the report's recommendations, along with his fellow former commissioners.

The Australia Institute's climate and energy director, Richie Merzian, said the report's findings validated the institute's research that 82 per cent of Australians were concerned about climate change's impacts on future bushfires.

"It is damming that Australia does not have an authoritative agreed set of climate change scenarios, nor standardised guidance on how to interpret and use these scenarios consistently," he said.

"This federal government has only pushed Australia backwards."

Citing the projections Australia's insurance disaster costs will increase from $18 billion annually to $39 billion per year, Mr Merzian said action was needed to stop Australians also bearing the financial brunt of more disasters.

Independent MPs Zali Steggall and Helen Haines both agreed the commission needed to act as a turning point to spark greater climate change action.

"It is time to be unified in addressing climate change," Ms Steggall said. "This is not about left or right politics, it is about Australia's long-term safety and economic prosperity. It is in our national interest to have sensible, bipartisan legislation in place that requires regular risk assessment, adaptation planning and long-term mitigation by locking in emission reductions."

Dr Haines added: "The response from the government must be swift, decisive and uncompromising. We need significant investments in our firefighting capability, in our emergency management and in the resilience of regional communities."

This story Calls for climate change action erupt after royal commission findings first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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