Blog | 5th Sep, 2010

First steps on the road to a safe climate?

On Friday, 3 September the Victorian Parliament ratified a new Climate Change Act. At the heart of the Act is a target for Victoria to reduce its emissions by 20 percent by 2020 (on 2000 levels).

Now we all know that the science tells us that stronger targets than this are going to be necessary to limit climate change, and we’ll continue to campaign for scientific targets. However until last Friday Victoria’s greenhouse target was to reduce the state’s emissions by 60 percent by 2050. That was an unlegislated target of the ALP Government. Now we have a stronger, nearer term, legislated target which has been supported by all parties in the Parliament. It is also an unconditional target, which means that regardless of what happens nationally with emissions trading, Victoria’s target stands. That’s a significant step in the right direction, and a sign that our parliament is beginning to reflect community consensus on the need for climate action in Victoria.

Congratulations to the ALP Government for introducing the Bill, and the Greens and Coalition for supporting it. We were particularly pleased that the Coalition supported the Bill given the federal Liberals and Nationals chaos on the issue. We now have both the ALP and the Coalition in Victoria holding much stronger policy positions than their Federal counterparts.

What’s more achieving the 20 per cent reductions target will require some significant policy effort. Left unchecked Victoria’s emissions are anticipated to climb to 130 million tonnes per year by 2020, but our 20 per cent target requires that emissions are cut to 96 million tonnes annually by 2020. That’s a cut of 3.4 million tonnes every year for the next decade or 34 million tonnes annually by 2020. The recently released Climate Change White Paper outlined a number of policies that would lead to some emissions reductions, (eg replacing one quarter of Hazelwood and doubling the state’s energy efficiency target), but not in the order of 3.4 million tonnes per year. So now we’ve got the legislative mandate for new climate policies to cut pollution.

As you’re probably aware at Environment Victoria we’ve got two big ideas that we think all political parties to adopt. Firstly, replacing the whole of Hazelwood power station could deliver emissions reductions of 14.5 million tonnes per year as soon as the end of 2012. Secondly retrofitting one million Victorian homes for energy and water efficiency could deliver another 2.7 million tonnes of annual abatement while protecting Victorian households against rising utility bills, water shortages and extreme weather.

The passage of the Climate Change Act shows that the Victorian Parliament can rise to the challenge of climate change, regardless of federal inaction. The state election is 12 weeks away. Let’s hope that the policies we need to achieve our new target are seized upon and delivered.

PS: It should be noted not everyone in the Parliament was happy about the Climate Change Bill. Liberal Party Upper House representative Bernie Finn had this to say about the Bill:

This is a con; the whole thing (climate change) is a con. Today we are in the Parliament of Victoria wasting our time on something that is largely an invention of the left.

While its worrying that such views are still held in the Liberal party, its encouraging that they are no longer winning the day.