Blog | 26th Oct, 2011

Takes two big backwards steps on climate action

This week has not been a good week for the climate in Victorian politics.

Firstly on Saturday, 23 October the Baillieu Government announced a review of Victoria’s climate legislation. The Climate Change Act, which includes a target to reduce the state’s emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, has been ignored by the Baillieu Government since it was elected. Treasurer Kim Wells even managed to forget that the legislation included a legislated target.

At the time the Brumby Government introduced the Climate Change Act environment groups were told that a review would be necessary if Australia adopted an emissions trading scheme as it might be necessary for Victoria to increase its target. That review has now been triggered with the price on carbon legislation passing the Federal House of Reps.

At Environment Victoria we fear that the Baillieu Government is planning to abandon the target altogether, as some, like VECCI, have been calling for. Nevertheless we’ll be making a submission to the review and highlighting the continuing need for state government action on climate change. After all it is state governments who make many critical planning, infrastructure and energy supply decisions, and this will remain the case with a price on carbon. We’ll also be reminding the Baillieu Government that action on climate change creates new jobs and economic opportunities in some of the world’s fastest growing industries.

And it appears they need reminding. On Tuesday, 26 October Energy Minister Michael O’Brien announced a 50 year renewal of Alcoa’s mining lease at Anglesea, and approved the expansion of the mine pit by 214 hectares. This will see the destruction of some of our most valuable and important coastal heathlands.

The Government tried to spin the agreement as a win for the environment and the economy. In fact, it’s a win for neither. The government was in a unique position to kick-start Victoria’s clean energy economy. Instead it entrenched polluting practice until 2061. Alcoa is not required to source a single electron of renewable energy. Even requiring that Alcoa source a small proportion of its energy requirements, say 10 per cent, from renewable energy would have created dozens of new regional jobs and millions of dollars worth of investment. Instead the state government has passed up a golden opportunity to require Alcoa, one of the10 largest greenhouse polluters in the state, to reduce their emissions and support clean energy.

The deal requires no further measures to reduce Alcoa’s high levels of sulphur dioxide pollution. And suspiciously the deal was announced just 48 hours after the EPA announced that natural causes were the most likely cause of fish kills in the Anglesea River, despite 2/3 of the EPA Review findings relating to Alcoa’s operations.

These are the latest in a sequence of disappointing decisions and actions by the Baillieu Government as summarised here. Most disappointingly very few of these decisions were flagged before the election, meaning that Victorians didn’t know that the Coalition planned to take these environmentally destructive actions.

That’s why we need you to join us on Sunday, 13 November in our ‘Backwards March’ to highlight the direction the Baillieu Government is taking us on the environment and urge them to change their direction. Get the details here

Its been a tough week for Victoria’s environment. But we’re determined to win the long game.

Check out the Doctors for the Environment Australia for more info on the impact of emissions on human health