Climate change bill 2020

Australia’s recent bushfire season of unprecedented scale, foreseen years ago by climate scientists as a likely result of a warming planet, lays bare the urgent need for climate justice. With this context in mind, NSWCCL wishes to affirm its support for the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020 (“the Bill”), to be introduced to Parliament by the independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall.

Modelled on similar legislation passed by several developed nations, including the UK, Germany and France, the Bill attempts to provide policy certainty, transparency and accountability in relation to emissions reduction targets and climate adaptation. Amongst other innovations, the Bill:

  • creates an independent Climate Change Commission (CCC) to help prepare emissions reduction plans and budgets, report on progress, conduct climate change risk assessments, and advise the government in relation to climate adaptation;
  • sets a statutory emissions reduction target of zero net emissions by 2050 which cannot be varied without the consent of the CCC;
  • institutes five-yearly whole-of-economy emissions budgets; and
  • establishes a number of guiding principles which administrative decision-makers, as well as the CCC itself, must consider.

In our view, the Bill would greatly assist the combatting of climate change in Australia. It would create the policy stability and transparency demanded by the business community, improve the quality of administrative decision-making and promote government procurement and expenditure consistent with Australia’s climate responsibilities. Experiments with similar Bills in other jurisdictions have yielded positive results. NSWCCL rejects spurious claims by Coalition MPs that allowing independent, non-partisan experts empowered by the Parliament to have a say in climate policy is “a subversion of our democracy and sovereignty”.[1] Rather, this is about Parliament setting the limits in which responsible governments are to operate, a procedure at the heart of our constitutional arrangements.

The NSWCCL was founded in 1963 with the aim of protecting the civil liberties and human rights of all Australians. We have always seen our role as holding draconian or negligent lawmakers to account.

To that end, NSWCCL has joined a growing contingent of human rights organisations in recognising that climate change poses an urgent threat to the enjoyment of civil liberties and human rights, particularly those of the most vulnerable in the global and Australian communities. In a general sense, a healthy and functional climate system is an essential prerequisite to the exercise of all human rights and civil liberties. More concretely, climate change is already producing effects – from increased incidence of extreme weather events to sea level rise - which endanger human rights today. In Australia (let alone the rest of the world), basic civil liberties such as the right to life, the right to privacy, family life and the home, the right to minority cultural identity and practice, and the rights of children may have all been compromised by inaction on climate change from, amongst other actors, the NSW and Australian governments.

NSWCCL welcomes Ms Steggall’s efforts and looks forward to participating in her grassroots campaign for climate justice.


[1] https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/steggall-s-climate-change-bill-just-politics-as-usual-20200220-p542u5.html