“This bill is as sensible a centre as possible so a vast majority of Australians can get on board and support it,” Ms Steggall said.
“It’s up to the Australian people to apply pressure to their elected representatives … and I will be lobbying MPs to cross the floor.”
Ms Steggall said it would be hypocritical of the Coalition to block a conscience vote given recent threats from Nationals such as Barnaby Joyce to cross the floor.
“What’s good for one is good for all,” she said.
The Coalition party room determines policy, including conscience votes.
Bitter divisions among Liberal and Nationals representatives over climate policy, particularly on support for new coal-fired power and the need for more emissions reductions, make any significant change to the status quo unlikely in the short term.
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said on Monday he expected to release a “long-term emissions reduction strategy” ahead of the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Last week, when asked if he would commit Australia to a 2050 target, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would “never make a commitment like that if I couldn’t tell the Australian people what it would cost them”. Mr Taylor and Mr Morrison have said Australia would “meet and beat” its 2030 Paris targets of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels, potentially without using Kyoto carryover credits.
The Paris agreement aims to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Under Ms Steggall’s bill, policy would be guided by an independent, expert body called the Climate Change Commission (CCC), which would in effect reinstate the Climate Commission established by the Gillard Government in 2011 and abolished by the Abbott government in 2013. The CCC would advise the energy and emissions reduction minister, who would remain responsible for policy, on climate change risks.
The minister would set policies to meet an emissions budget consistent with net zero emissions by 2050 and the CCC would evaluate whether the government was on track to meet its goals.
The CCC would publish annual assessments of national and regional water availability, vegetation, air quality and changes to international climate policy. Government would be required to set five-year adaptation plans for the nation, environment and industry.
It would also advise government on the effect on global warming from Australia’s fossil fuel exports.
Ms Steggall was joined at the launch of her bill by independent MPs Helen Haines and Andrew Wilkie as well as Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie, who will second it for introduction to the lower house.
Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.