Bushfire Royal Commission a missed opportunity to reset Australia’s climate policies

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 20 Feb 2020

Responding to the release of the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into the Black Summer Bushfires, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said:

“As the terms of reference for the bushfire Royal Commission acknowledge, this devastating national disaster has occurred in the context of the escalating climate crisis. Oxfam Australia is therefore disappointed that the Commission has not been asked to look into Australia’s contribution to the global climate crisis, and will be focussed more narrowly on adaptation, resilience and response measures.

“Sadly, we are looking at a missed opportunity to help bring greater understanding of the scale and pace of action Australia must take to help curb the climate crisis and the accompanying risk of far more dangerous fire seasons in future. This could have helped reset Australia’s climate policy debate. Once again, the focus is on the symptoms and not the causes.

“Importantly, the Government is not off the hook while this Commission is underway. While the Commission is left to do its work, the Government would do well to spend its time developing a comprehensive plan to get to zero emissions as soon as possible.

“It is abundantly clear that Australia’s current course – when it comes to climate pollution and fossil fuels – is risking a future to which it will be impossible for many Australians and communities around the world to adapt.

“Right now, Australia could wield great authority and leverage globally. If we led by example and immediately strengthened our own emissions reduction commitments, and if we linked our own crisis with those escalating around the world, we could be a great catalyst for stronger international action.

“For decades, Oxfam has witnessed the crushing impacts of climate change on communities around the world, from stronger cyclones devastating our Pacific neighbours, to ongoing food crises in the Sahel and Horn regions of Africa. But never before have the realities of the climate crisis struck so close to home.

“Whether in Tuvalu or Mallacoota, we are all in this together.”

For interviews or more information, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or dylanq@oxfam.org.au