News | 20th Mar, 2013

Climate-driven disasters cost Victorians $4 billion

20 March 2013
Tom Arup, The Age


Climate-driven disasters such as bushfires and floods have cost Victorian taxpayers more than $4 billion over the last decade, it has emerged, as the Napthine Government released its plan for Victoria to prepare for the future impacts of climate change.

The plan – released on Tuesday in state parliament – aims to manage risks to Victoria of increase bushfires, heatwaves, droughts and floods as climate change intensifies.

But environment groups and the opposition have slammed the document saying it is substanceless and contains no new actions to prepare Victoria for more extreme weather.

It comes as Victoria's Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Kate Auty, released an annual audit of greenhouse gas emissions from state government departments and agencies. Professor Auty found that overall government greenhouse gas emissions in 2011-12 dropped from the previous year due to less emissions from air and road travel.

But she also found that the government significantly slashed the average amount of electricity it purchased as GreenPower from 26 per cent to 13.9 per cent in 2011-12, meaning office building emissions rose.

Launching the state adaptation plan yesterday, state Climate Change Minister Ryan Smith said it would deliver improved risk planning and stronger partnerships with local government to build Victoria's resilience to climate change.

Mr Smith said he had committed $6 million to support local government action on climate adaptation. The plan also sets up a committee to coordinate adaptation policy across government.

The plan outlines a number of risks for Victoria from climate change including compromised transport networks, damage to electricity distribution infrastructure, and reduced water availability.

It says the Treasury Department has estimated the cost to government for recovery after natural disasters as more than $4 billion over the last ten years. It added that research showed projected increases of bushfires due to climate change would cost the Victorian agriculture sector an extra $1.4 billion and the forestry industry $2.8 billion by 2050.

Labor environment spokeswoman Lisa Neville said the report outlined the devastating impacts of climate change but the government had delivered a plan with no new action and no new ways of reducing or management of future risks.

Environment Victoria campaigner Victoria McKenzie-McHarg said "the document is not so much a plan for action as it is a literature review of the government's previous activities and those of other levels of government."


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