Greens urged to quit air travel after declaring climate emergency

ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury has been told to stop flying to COAG meetings and international running festivals if he wants to save the planet, after he declared a climate emergency in the territory.

Labor and the Greens used their numbers in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday to pass a motion stating Australia was in a state of climate emergency and condemning the federal Coalition government for its continued failure to enact effective climate change policy.

Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury at the Crookwell 2 wind farm. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury at the Crookwell 2 wind farm. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

It came after the UK's parliament became the first national government to declare a climate emergency earlier this month, and after protesters scaled the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Tuesday to force Prime Minister Scott Morrison to follow suit.

Mr Rattenbury said climate change was a "direct existential threat" and "urgent and significant action" was required.

"Climate change is moving faster than we are. Not are we already suffering the impact of climate change but urgent or ongoing action is required to prevent impending disaster environmental, economic and social disaster, globally, nationally and locally," Mr Rattenbury said.

But Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe said the motion was motivated by the Greens federal election campaign.

He said if the party was serious about addressing climate change, they would commit to abstaining from all air travel and to undertake all interstate meetings by phone or video conference.

"It's all very well to come in here and lecture us but you've got to actually practice what you preach. You can't go travelling the world, going to running festivals and then claim that people should be pulling their weight," Mr Coe said.

"If they're fair dinkum, they will abstain from all air travel and they'll undertake all their international and interstate meetings by phone and video conferencing. If it's a climate emergency how can you possibly justify flying around the world for a holiday?"

Mr Rattenbury said if he took Mr Coe's suggestion seriously, he would not be able to represent the ACT at COAG.

"Is he seriously suggesting the ACT be unrepresented at those meetings?" Mr Rattenbury said.

Mr Rattenbury also said while "quite a few" meetings were already held by video conference, the gatherings were called by the federal government and one could not just "dial in".

"Personally I do take the bus to some of these meetings, you can look at my travel records and see for yourself but this is not about my individual behaviour, this is about us as a community to address the serious issues that we as a community face," Mr Rattenbury said.

"It's not about saying individuals should not participate in society but about working together to build a different future, a better future, where it is possible that we do live fulfilling lives without living unsustainably."

Mr Rattenbury's travel records show the minister and a staffer did indeed bus to the Mental Health Conference in Sydney last June.

He also took the bus back from Sydney in July 2017 although the travel log noted that was because there were no available flights, and has also carpooled with staff to get to another meeting in Sydney while other government officials flew.

However Mr Rattenbury has travelled by air for work 20 times this term. Seventeen destinations were more than a six hours drive each way, however he has flown to Sydney three times.

Mr Rattenbury told The Canberra Times: "I always make conscious choices where I can to travel sustainably".

"This includes catching the bus and carpooling to interstate meetings, and cycling and taking public transport to local meetings," he said.

"I also travel economy class and take other measure to minimise expenses to Canberrans."

Mr Rattenbury also introduced legislation to keep the ACT's 100 per cent renewable electricity target going in perpetuity.

Mr Rattenbury said the ACT would meet the target when the final large scale generator came online on October 1, but the bill would give Canberrans "certainty" their electricity would continue to be sourced from renewables once the current deeds expired in the mid to late 2030s.

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