As the Bushfire Royal Commission kicks off with a ceremonial hearing today, former fire chiefs have welcomed its focus on climate change, a key factor fuelling this summer’s catastrophic conditions.
Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, a growing coalition of 32 former fire and emergency services leaders, has stressed that understanding climate change’s influence on increasing fire danger, and rebuilding with low-carbon solutions are key to the long-term safety of Australians.
“Climate change and how it is driving extreme weather must be a central part of the Royal Commission. Climate change was the main driver of the catastrophic fire dangers we experienced that destroyed so many Australian lives and livelihoods,” said Greg Mullins, Former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW.
“I’ve been fighting fires for decades and there has never before been a season like the one we just experienced. Australia is incredibly vulnerable to escalating climate change threats and we need to be better prepared.
“The threat of fires in Australia is almost year-round now as a result of climate change. Last year fires began in winter and now – in autumn – we are seeing total fire bans being put in place. This week the risk of bushfires in the Adelaide Hills is severe,” said Mr Mullins.
Peter Dunn, former Commissioner, ACT Emergency Services Authority and coordinator, Conjola Recovery Centre, added: “We must tackle climate change to limit the increase of fire danger, and for an effective recovery from the bushfires as well as COVID-19.
“Not only will the transition away from fossil fuels to a low-carbon, renewables-powered economy help keep Australians safe from worsening extreme weather, solutions like solar micro-grids will make communities more disaster-resilient and strengthen regional economies.
“As the Bushfire Royal Commission seeks lessons from the horror summer we’ve just endured and policymakers try to plan an effective COVID-19 recovery based on science, it’s clear we need similarly evidence-based, credible action on climate change for a safe, healthy and thriving future,” said Mr Dunn.
Emergency Leaders for Climate Action will be making a submission to the Bushfire Royal Commission.