Submission on Paris Agreement

06 October 2016
Submission on Paris Agreement

On Thursday 6 October, Dr Mark Zirnsak from the Victoria Tasmania Synod represented the Uniting Church in Australia at a hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on the Paris Agreement.  

Here is his opening statement:

"Getting straight to the terms of this committee, the Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Victoria and Tasmania is very supportive of the government ratifying the Paris Agreement. We have had a longstanding concern around climate change, for its impacts on both people and the broader natural environment. Listed in our submission, which I see you have before you, are numerous resolutions that have been passed over time within the Uniting Church showing those concerns. Demonstrating our involvement: we were also present at the Bali negotiations and we did attend one of the Bonn negotiations earlier on in the process.

We welcome the Paris Agreement in that it provides a very long-term treaty approach to this very significant global problem—and that is a strong positive—and it has also set a target of 1.5 degrees, which is a significant improvement on two degrees, and we quote other bodies within the submission that we have made. While Australia has played a very positive role in those negotiations around the Paris Agreement, we share concerns that Australia needs to increase its efforts in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and playing its part in this global problem. The concern is that, if Australia stuck to the existing targets and others followed that example, it would set us on the path of a three- to four-degree increase rather than a 1.5-degree increase. 

We also note that the government's own Climate Change Authority has indicated that even to meet the existing emission reduction goals Australia's emissions need to decline much more steeply than they have in the past. We do note the evidence from others, particularly probably most concerning from Professor Sir Robert Watson in the recently released report The truth about climate change that there is concern that the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees has already been missed and that we are already locked into a path that will take us above that.

Obviously there are going to be differences of opinion around these kinds of matters, but even if that analysis were true it simply indicates that Australia should ratify the Paris agreement and increase its efforts as part of the global commitments made collectively to address this problem.

Finally, while the Australian government has made the contribution of $200 million a year towards assisting developing countries with addressing the impacts of climate change, we believe that that needs to be increased if Australia is to be contributing its share to the $100 billion a year by 2020 that was to be provided through the Paris agreement." 

For the full text of the submission, see the attachment below.