Declare climate emergency: ex-fire chiefs

Fire and emergency services heads are urging the government to act against climate change.
Fire and emergency services heads are urging the government to act against climate change.

Former fire chiefs from across Australia have urged the federal government to declare a climate emergency in the wake of the catastrophic bushfires which have roared across NSW and Queensland.

Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins says Australians are in a "new age of unprecedented bushfire danger".

"We'd like to see Labor, the coalition government, Greens and the crossbenchers all come together and declare a climate emergency," he told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

Mr Mullins was speaking at a joint press conference with former Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Lee Johnson, ex-Country Fire Authority Victoria chief executive Neil Bibby and former Tasmania Fire Service chief fire officer Mike Brown.

They form part of a coalition of 23 fire and emergency leaders from every state and territory, known as Emergency Leaders for Climate Change.

"This week's catastrophic fires are exactly the type of disaster that emergency leaders and climate scientists have been warning about for decades and summer hasn't even begun," Mr Mullins said in a statement.

"Climate change is the key reason why fire seasons are lengthening, fires are harder to control, and access to international firefighting resources like large aircraft is becoming more difficult.

"The government must respond to this urgent threat with an urgent response."

Mr Mullins said Australia needed to "rapidly bring down coal emissions" and transition away from coal, oil and gas.

Mr Mullins told reporters members of the group had disparate political views and experiences but stood united in demanding action on climate change.

"If it's not time now to speak about climate and what's driving these events - when?" he said.

Mr Mullins also slammed what he saw as an unofficial gag order on speaking about climate change.

"This fire season is going to go for months, so do we just simply get gagged? Because I think that's what's happening," he said.

"Some people want the debate gagged because they don't have any answers.

"It's OK to say it's arsonists' fault, or that the 'greenies' are stopping hazard reduction burning, which simply isn't true, but you're not allowed to talk about climate change. Well, we are, because we know what's happening."

Australian Associated Press