At a community, policy and political level the campaigns and outcomes delivered this year will have a lasting impact.
The extraordinary political outcomes of last year’s Federal election led to a policy opportunity that many of us thought might not be possible again for years. The carbon price legislation created one of the most hotly debated (and misrepresented) issues that our nation has dealt with in recent years, and sparked nothing less than a culture war across Australia.
While some were determined to fight a bloody battle and incite hated of not just the policy but of those determined to deliver it, the climate movement remained focused on achieving an outcome that would mark a step-change in Australia’s action on climate change.
While the legislation that finally passed through the parliament is far from perfect, it begins the difficult task of transforming our economy and shapes an opportunity for Australia to go much further in future. In the short to medium term, the policy also delivers outcomes that we’ve campaigned hard for over many years, particularly on renewable energy and the phase-out of brown coal.
With the dumping of the Brumby Government commitment to replace part of Hazelwood power station by the newly elected Baillieu Government, our campaign to have Hazelwood replaced in full changed course immediately. With renewed enthusiasm and continued support from across the Victorian community, we achieved a commitment in the carbon price package to retire up to 2000MW of brown coal. While negotiations continue with numerous brown coal-fired generators, Hazelwood power station is now considered a serious candidate for closure.
We’re still a long way from a firm commitment as yet, and as we inch closer to the victory we’ve been wanting for years, the continued strength of our campaign becomes more important than ever.
Similarly, our campaign to stop HRL (the proposed new coal-fired power station for Victoria) will continue into 2012 with much to be done. The problem of HRL has sat on the Victorian agenda for years, and in 2011 the issue finally came to a head. Community engagement with this campaign has surprised even us, with over 4,000 objections to the company’s application for environmental approvals, and signatures to our petition to the federal government continuing to flow into the office in their thousands.
Our legal challenge to the EPA’s approval of the power station has been an exciting opportunity made possible thought the commitment of our legal team and pro-bono barristers, and the generosity of you – our supporters. Again, we were surprised by the level of support that flooded in from donors, big and small, to make this landmark case possible. The hearing has been adjourned until February, and we’ll be preparing over the summer for a renewed effort both at VCAT and with our community campaign to convince the Federal Government to withdraw their support for the power station.
At a state level, the avalanche of destructive environmental policies from the Baillieu Government was as surprising as it was disappointing. How a modern day government can sacrifice new jobs, industries and major economic and environmental opportunities in new clean technologies is beyond us. We’ve got a challenge ahead to show the Baillieu Government the overwhelming benefits to be achieved in Victoria with good environmental policies.
And to do it, we’ll need to reach further and deeper into Victorian communities than ever before.
This year, we began that process through development of a new volunteer program to provide supporters with more opportunities to engage with and help strengthen our climate campaign. After just nine months we now have an active group of 200 volunteers who are writing letters, working the phones, holding actions, and hosting community stalls across Victoria each weekend. With your help, we’ve reached thousands of new people concerned about our environmental challenges, and engaged them to take action.
Despite these great outcomes, the year has still been one of major ups and downs at Environment Victoria, and once again we end the year exhausted. But the planning for next year’s campaign is in full swing, and excitement is already building around the activities and outcomes that we’re aiming to deliver for our environment.
We’ll need your help more than ever, and we want your ideas about how we can make this happen. But for the next few weeks, I’d recommend you spend your time slightly differently.
Take a walk in our beautiful national parks knowing that threatened species and ecosystems have been saved for future generations by the campaigns of previous generations. Take a deep breath of fresh air knowing that successful environmental campaigns have significantly reduced smog and air pollution in Victoria. Recognise what you and others around you have achieved this last year in campaigns for action on climate change, and know that we are closer to what we need to achieve because of your commitment.