Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy recognised the establishment of the Bushfire Royal Commission today as a historic opportunity as it is the first time a bushfire inquiry in Australia has been given powers to analyse the risks of climate change and actions that should be taken.
“While the Terms of Reference for the Bushfire Royal Commission announced today recognise the risks of climate change for the nation, they avoid addressing the root cause of worsening bushfires: climate pollution.
“We have a window of opportunity to not simply adapt but to reduce the impacts of climate change on future bushfire seasons and the threat it represents to life, property and our natural world.
“That means the Royal Commission’s recommendations on climate change mitigation must be taken seriously and raise the government’s ambition to focus on reducing the pollution that is driving climate change and making bushfires worse.
The Terms of Reference require the Royal Commission to look into what actions should be taken to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, and to make recommendations about policy and legislative reforms.
“The Morrison Government must not use the Royal Commission as an excuse to delay action on climate change,” Ms O’Shanassy said.
“Encouragingly for Australian wildlife facing extinction, the Royal Commission has been directed to examine a national approach to species conservation, which represents an opportunity to examine whether our national environment legislation should be replaced with stronger, more effective laws.”
Ms O’Shanassy said the heavy emphasis on adaptation measures in the Terms of Reference risked limiting the contribution the Royal Commission can make to the lives of Australians and to wildlife.
“Hazard reduction is not a silver bullet, it just one part of the mix of actions necessary to limit the damage climate change-fuelled fires are causing.
“The science evidence is clear that the digging up and burning of coal and gas is the main driver of climate change and is making bushfires worse. If we fail to address the root cause, we will fail those communities that will have to face climate-fuelled crises in the future.”
“No amount of resilience building or adaptation will prepare Australia for the full force of global warming of 3 degrees or more – which is the path we are all on right now.
“Remember, this summer’s horror bushfires happened off the back of the 1 degree of heating that has already occurred.”