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Speech - August 17th Better Futures Forum

Better Futures Forum Address

Can I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. Can I also acknoweldge the remarks of the former UN secretary general. His leadership on behalf of the global community in tackling climate change is so important and I want to thank him for that. 

Climate change is the challenge that will define the 21st century. It is a challenge that our children will face, and a challenge that our children’s 

children will face. But the challenge faced by our grandchildren will be defined by the actions we take here and now. 

You only need to think back to two years ago when NSW was in the grips of one of the worst drought in our history and was about to suffer through the most devastating bushfires in living memory. 

It’s worthwhile reflecting on some of the images from those times. Towns having to get their water delivered in truck not provided out of a tap. 

Australians huddled by the beach, not to enjoy the surf and the sun, but to take refuge from extreme wildfire. 

We had the opera house and Sydney harbour bridge shrouded in smoke and we had the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree that has outlived the dinosaurs, only surviving because of the heroic work of our brave men and women in the national parks service. 

Unfortunately, this is the reality of climate change. And it’s not just being seen in NSW, its being seen around the world. 

In North America, with unprecedented heatwaves, fires and drought challenging emergency services like never before. 

In Europe, with floods and fires pushing local communities to the brink. 

The reality is that climate change is already impacting our lives today, and we all need to take action to protect our planet, prosperity and way of life. 

Too often, political leaders in Australia have focused on the cost of taking action on climate change. The reality is, taking action on climate change should not be about the cost to our economy, but rather, about the dividends from preserving our planet and setting our country up for the future. 

Australia and NSW in particular has enormous opportunities to grow our economy as the world decarbonises. 

We have some of the best renewable resources anywhere in the world. 

As the world decarbonises we are not just a sunburnt country, we are a sunblessed country. 

Our renewable energy resources can underwrite new industries in green hydrogen and materials like green steel and aluminium. 

Because the reality is that as the world moves to decarbonise, our low cost, clean electricity can be the foundation for our industry to win the 21st century. 

Of course this is not just a renewable energy story, it is a story about the transformation our entire economy. 

Take for example agriculture, which represents about 20% of NSW’s emissions. You can reduce livestock emissions by providing a seaweed supplement to the food we give our animals. That supplement can reduce livestock emissions by about 90%, while at the same time, increasing the speed at which our animals grow. 

Sequestering carbon in our soil is not only good for our atmosphere but also to ensure our soils hold more moisture and become more productive over time. 

This is why meat and livestock Australia has a net zero by 2030 target. 

Similarly, decarbonising the world is going to require Australian iron ore, copper, nickel and lithium. 

In NSW we are actively pursuing these opportunities. 

Our Renewable energy zones and our electricity infrastructure roadmap are transforming our electricity system so that we can enjoy some of the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy anywhere in the world. 

Our $750 million industry and innovation program is helping to transform our carbon intensive industries into green manufacturing powerhouses. 

And our net zero primary industry program will help make our farmers more productive, more prosperous and protect the planet. 

But the NSW government cannot get to net zero alone. Decarbonising our economy is going to require everyone playing their part. It requires our industry, our banks and our big businesses to reduce their own emissions, while also helping their suppliers and customers to reduce theirs as well. 

It’s going to require our super funds and investors to provide the capital to rebuild our economy into one that is stronger and more resilient in a net zero world. 

And it is going to require every household and small business to take advantage of every low cost, low carbon new technology that comes along. To put solar on their rooftops, heat pumps in their homes, and electric vehicles in their garages. 

But we also need a new politics. 

We need to move beyond a politics focused on vested interest to a politics focused on the national interest. 

We need to move beyond the politics of false facts, fear and prejudice to a new politics of hope, aspiration and confidence in the creativity, intelligence and determination that took us to the moon, and cured us from disease. 

I am proud that in NSW that the Liberal party, the Labor party, the National Party, the Greens, the Animal justice party, the Christian democratic party and all the NSW independents joined together to pass the biggest renewable energy package in the nation’s history. 

Now there were differences of opinion and compromises that needed to be made to get that legislation passed but underpinning it was a deep commitment in the NSW parliament to protect our planet and to set our people up to take advantage of the opportunities that a low carbon future will provide us. 

I am heartened that in the United States last week, a group of republicans and democrats joined together to pass a $1.2 trillion down payment on the future of our planet. 

The new politics I am talking about is not the thing of dreams, it is the thing that we have already shown we can do. We know that when we bring our best selves to our parliaments and focus on building our country on common ground rather than fracturing it based on our divisions we can succeed. 

Remaking our politics and building a better country is the responsibility of every citizen. It is our responsibility when we purchase things for our homes, when we choose where to invest our superannuation, when we decide who we bank with, and when we decide how to vote at the ballot box. 

We need to send a message to all leaders in every part of our soceity that failing to deliver on the promise of what we can be is not an option. Complaining that it is too hard is not a solution. Saying it is up to others to come up with a plan is a cop out. The community expects our leaders to get on with it, or get out of the way. 

Every generation of Australians has had to face momentous challenges. And in our short history, every generation has turned the challenge of their time into an opportunity to make our country a better place. 

Australia should not be a climate laggard. We should be a climate leader because we can do what other countries can’t, because here in Australia we can protect our planet in ways that lift the living standards of all humanity. That is the challenge of our time and I truly believe that the generation of people here today - the current custodians of our planet - will take it on and 

turn it into an opportunity to underwrite our prosperity, rebuild our economy and remake our politics. 

Thank you.