My name is Greg. I’m a former Commissioner of Fire & Rescue NSW, and I recently joined the team as a Climate Councillor. I’ve worked for 47 years fighting fires both as a volunteer and as a full-time firefighter, and I’ve personally seen the horrific impact that fires can have on communities, not just in NSW, but interstate and overseas.
In recent years, I’ve seen first-hand how increasingly catastrophic extreme weather is putting lives, properties and livelihoods at risk – and in many cases, overwhelming our emergency services.
Today, 22 of my former colleagues, all senior fire and emergency service leaders from across Australia who have also seen these changes, have joined me to take a stand. Together, we are united in calling for urgent action to curb climate change.
These leaders are men and women who have been on the frontline of some of the worst threats and extreme weather events our nation has seen, from raging bushfires to devastating floods and cyclones.
All of us have experienced how climate change is intensifying the impacts of extreme weather events. We have seen our emergency services becoming more and more overwhelmed, as they struggle to cope with intensifying extreme weather driven by climate change. Emergency services simply don’t have the resources or capacity to adapt to this changing threat, particularly as many face continual budget restrictions.
That is why, today, we are uniting as a new group, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, to make an important statement.
We are stepping up because we have a duty to protect Australians and to share what we know.
We know that there are many groups already active. So it’s fair to ask, why create another group. Emergency responders are on the frontline of climate change and are confronted disproportionately with its impacts. With our skills, knowledge, and connections, we are well placed to talk about both the impacts and solutions to climate change, specifically in relation to bushfires, storms, and floods.
Already this morning, we have been out in the media making our objectives clear, speaking on prime time television and publishing our joint statement in The Age Newspaper. And this is just the beginning.
We’ve come up with a hard-hitting plan to speak to the heads and hearts of those in power and to the Australian public, by:
- Calling for the Prime Minister to meet with a delegation and allow us to present to the relevant Ministerial Council, and to the Australia / NZ Emergency Management Committee on the need for adequate resourcing, emergency planning, and policy change.
- Calling on the Australian Government and State and Territory Governments to properly resource urban and rural fire services, the SES, and forestry and national parks firefighting arms. To reduce hazards, mitigate fire threats, and respond with every available tool, including large firefighting aircraft that are increasingly unavailable to us because the Northern Hemisphere faces a similar escalating bushfire threat. Another crucial tool is ongoing research into bushfire and natural hazards and what we can do differently to protect life, property and the environment.
- Getting out in the media talking about the need to rapidly and deeply reduce greenhouse gas pollution to start addressing the worsening impacts of climate change.
- Hosting a summit for emergency leaders to discuss new ways forward.
The signatories to this statement are no strangers to facing danger and making difficult decisions. These are people who have shown moral fortitude, strength of character and courage throughout their esteemed careers. They are all strong leaders, with the ability to look at the bigger picture, and to take decisive action.
They decided to form this group to push for decisive leadership and big-picture thinking from our politicians, who must make rapid, crucial decisions to tackle the escalating climate crisis.
Thank you for your support of the Climate Council and its vital work. To learn more about the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, sign up via the website.
Greg Mullins AO, AFSM
Former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, former President of the Australasian Fire & Emergency Service Authorities’ Council.