Victoria should investigate traffic congestion taxes, overhaul its energy supply and change its approach to planned burns for bushfire prevention as part of efforts to stop worrying declines in the state's environmental health.
A major stocktake of Victoria's environment prepared for the state government – the first of its kind in five years – has detailed some significant worsening trends in critical areas.
In particular the state's greenhouse gas emissions rose 12 per cent between 1989-90 and 2010-11. The number of wildlife species under threat has increased in the last five years. And the extent and condition of native vegetation is in decline.
Across the 30 indicators the report uses to assess Victoria's environment – across climate, biodiversity, land, inland waters, coasts and human settlements – 16 were considered in poor health, six fair and just one good…
…Another recommendation is that the state government develop a plan to "modernise" Victoria's energy system, including encouraging more renewables and increasing energy efficiency.
The report notes just 5.5 per cent of Victorian electricity was generated by renewable sources in 2010-11, while burning brown coal – which releases significant CO2 emissions – is the dominant source.
She says the government should also review taxes and incentives for developers to promote sustainable housing design. Efficiency requirements should be entrenched for all public housing and community buildings.
Also among Professor Auty's 32 recommendations are:
• Establishing a plan and targets to protect natural systems, noting a new state biodiversity strategy has not been put in place, despite the previous one being out of date.
• Native vegetation clearing laws be tightened, just months after the state government moved to loosen them.
• A plan for sustainable food production be developed and incentives extended to farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices.
• A version of the City of Melbourne's urban forest strategy, which aims to increase canopy cover in the city among other things, be established state wide.
• Implementation of a series of plans, strategies and audits of environment monitoring to ensure better data is collected and made available to the public.
On the positive side, the report finds Victoria's air quality is good, having improved over past decades.
Conservation areas on land have increased in the last five years. And Victorians are recycling more, with annual rates up from 51 per cent to 68 per cent between 2002-03 and 2010-11.
The report, the second of its kind, was tabled in state parliament on Thursday morning. The government has one year to respond to its recommendations.