Today’s State Budget delivers a boost for the state’s rivers and signals the beginning of a transition plan for the Latrobe Valley to move beyond coal, said Environment Victoria.
The budget delivered $222 million over four years to improve river and catchment health, and $40 million for a new Latrobe Valley transition and economic diversification plan. It also includes recently announced funding to implement all recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry and the Andrews Government’s plan to increase coal mining royalties by $252 million over the next four years.
However the budget includes only modest funding allocations for implementation of forthcoming Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Biodiversity plans all anticipated in the next few months.
Environment Victoria’s CEO Mark Wakeham said today:
“Environment Victoria strongly welcomes the increase in coal mining royalties estimated to raise an extra $252 million in the next four years, and we are pleased to see environmental levies that have been raised from water consumers being spent over the next four years on environmental programs.”
“We are particularly pleased to see the Andrews Government commit to moving the state away from brown coal to renewable energy, and to provide $40 million to the Latrobe Valley to prepare for that transition.
“While there are some welcome and substantial funding allocations for environmental programs, particularly in river health and coal mine rehabilitation, overall this budget leaves the Andrews Government with a lot of heavy lifting to do with upcoming renewable energy, climate change and biodiversity policies.
“With only modest funding for the Renewable Energy Action Plan ($12.4 million) and Energy Efficiency and Productivity Strategy ($24.3 million) these forthcoming policies will need a clear plan to deliver significant results with few resources. Without new sources of funding these strategies will need to rely on regulation and non-budgetary measures to deliver strong environmental outcomes.
“The Energy Efficiency Strategy for instance will need to adopt minimum standards for properties at the point of sale and lease if it is to deliver significant environmental, jobs and cost of living benefits.
“Similarly the Renewable Energy Action Plan and Climate Change Framework will need regulation or off-budget measures to support investment in renewable energy and the phasing out of coal-burning power stations.”
Environment Victoria closely examined Sustainability Fund expenditure which is one area where successive governments have failed to fully spend levies that are raised for environmental programs.
Mr Wakeham said:
“There was some progress in this budget with increased expenditure from the Sustainability Fund, but the fund is still growing in size. It is not supposed to be propping up the state’s balance sheet, it is supposed to be delivering environmental programs. We need a commitment to unlock this fund which is now around $400 million to deliver a leadership agenda to reduce global warming and protect our environment.”
Environmental spending in the 2016-17 State Budget
Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria CEO, 0439 700 501