A plan to cut Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over the next decade is set to be dumped by the Baillieu government on the basis that it would merely lighten the load imposed on other states.
An independent review of the state’s key climate change laws, to be released today, has found ‘‘no compelling case’’ to keep the target following the introduction of the Commonwealth’s minimum target to cut emissions by 5 per cent, to be mainly achieved through Labor’s carbon tax.
It said keeping the larger state target operating with a smaller national target would put a disproportionately large burden on Victoria, with no benefit to the environment because other states would do less.
It also concludes that keeping the state scheme in place would distort the national scheme as Victoria did more than its share.
The former Brumby government introduced legislation to cut emissions 20 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 after the failure of the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme to pass Parliament.
In opposition, the state Coalition said it supported the 20 per cent target. After taking power in 2010, senior ministers started describing it as ‘‘aspirational’’.
Premier Ted Baillieu has previously backed the concept of a carbon price as the cheapest way to cut emissions. Despite this, his government is opposed to the carbon tax, claiming it will hit Victoria harder than other states because of its reliance of brown coal.
State Environment Minister Ryan Smith said there was ‘‘bipartisan support’’ for the 5per cent national target. But the government’s position on how it should be achieved in the absence of a carbon tax remains unclear, given its earlier support for so-called market-based mechanisms.
Mr Smith said Victoria would do its fair share on cutting emissions. ‘‘We will look to support practical areas such as improving energy efficiency,’’ he said.
The review referred to research concluding that even with a Commonwealth carbon tax, meeting the 20 per cent target would have required Victoria to spend an additional $2.2 billion buying permits internationally to offset state emissions.
The government also points to the 2009 climate green paper released by the Brumby government, which said: ‘‘The government does not see any benefit in legislating for a state-based emissions reduction target that is inconsistent with a national target.’’ A later Brumby government climate white paper does not contain a similar statement.
The government says it will retain other climate change initiatives, including a four-year climate change adaptation plan and supporting Victorians offsetting their emissions and participating in the national Carbon Farming Initiative.
Labor climate spokeswoman Lisa Neville said dumping the target would ‘‘hurt investment, jobs and the environment. It betrays the trust of Victorians who care about reducing the state’s carbon footprint’’.
Environment Victoria chief Kelly O’Shanassy said the target had been about cutting pollution from the economy and attracting clean energy investment.
‘‘Either the Baillieu government doesn’t understand the threat climate change presents, or they are ignoring it,’’ she said.
‘‘Either way it’s an irresponsible decision environmentally and economically … Premier Baillieu has caved in to the demands of a handful of polluters instead of acting to protect the environment and the public interest.’’
Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper welcomed the decision, saying it was important for business to have consistency across the country. ‘‘You simply can’t have a different requirement in one part of the country, different emissions targets in different states, for industry working across state lines,’’ he said.
A spokesman for federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said: ‘‘While a carbon price is the most cost-effective way for Australia to cut our pollution there is still a role for cost-effective state and local initiatives that complement the carbon price.’’
‘‘We encourage the Victorian government to support carbon pricing as the most economically-efficient way of tackling climate change.’’
Former federal government climate adviser Ross Garnaut said: ‘‘I see no need for separate state emissions targets if there is an appropriate national target and policies to make sure we meet the national target.’’
The Baillieu government’s move has been mirrored by the incoming government in Queensland, which is planning to save $661 million over three years by dumping a range of state-based climate change initiatives.