Well that’s it for another year. And what a year it was!
Despite the uncertainty and challenges of 2021, we have achieved remarkable things together. We stopped big polluters in their tracks, we held decision-makers accountable, we stood up for this incredible living plane and shared moving personal stories of change.
I want to take a moment to reflect, to draw strength from our successes and show gratitude for the caring generosity of our community.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest highlights from the year — all made possible because of YOU.
Of course I have to begin with Westernport.
After more than three years of campaigning with Save Westernport and other local community groups we stopped Australia’s biggest climate polluter, AGL, from building a giant gas import terminal in beautiful Westernport Bay.
It was an inspiring display of how connected and organised communities can stand up to multi-billion-dollar corporations and win. After this resounding victory we carried the momentum into a new campaign to move Victoria beyond gas. So watch this space in 2022.
But of course, this year also contained some setbacks. In March we were devastated by the Victorian Environment Protection Authority’s decision to do almost nothing on climate or toxic pollution in their review of coal power station licences. But with the generous backing of our supporters, we are now challenging that decision in the Supreme Court!
We’ve put Victoria’s biggest polluters on notice. The community is not going to stand by and let them damage our climate and pollute our air. Learn more about the case here >>
The people-powered campaign for strong state climate targets was huge!
33,000 Victorians signed our petition, thousands of you sent personal messages to state MPs, bushfire survivors took their calls for strong targets to the steps of parliament and business, union and social sector groups came together to show their support.
While the target that has been set 45-50% by 2030 – falls short of what we know the climate science demands, it set a new benchmark among the major states, and together we’ll keep pushing them to raise the bar.
In the Latrobe Valley, we continued our work to build a positive vision for a future beyond coal.
With Communities Leading Change and Climate for Change, we helped organise inspiring local forums and produce Transitions: Stories of Gippsland Communities Leading Change – an incredible collection of stories showing how locals are carving out a new path for their region.
Our ongoing work monitoring the rehabilitation plans for the Latrobe Valley coal mines also paid off. Working with Friends of Latrobe Water (FLOW) we revealed major concerns with the plan to fill the pits with water, including water availability, ecological impacts and groundwater pollution.
As a result the Victorian government ruled out using water from the Latrobe river system and the mine operators and regulators will be required to look at less destructive ways to supply the water.
In 2021, we started to roll out our new community organising model which empowers everyday Victorians to become Local Organisers and bring their communities together to take coordinated action.
More than 130 volunteers from four key Victorian regions have already participated in our first People Power workshop series and with both a federal and state election on the horizon we’ve got big plans for 2022.
Working with conservationists, Traditional Owners and recreational fishers, we helped protect the Goulburn river from damaging and unnaturally high summer irrigation flows – with the state government setting flow limits for the first time.
We also continued our work with communities in the Murray-Darling Basin to protect precious local environments and create a shared vision for the future, including a comprehensive storytelling program with 120 locals from across the Basin.
One participant, Tuesday Browell, even organised a flotilla of boats to travel from Menindee to Wentworth to highlight what was happening on the flow stressed Darling-Baaka River. You can watch the short film we produced about it here >>
If you like watching films, then I also recommend the moving 25-minute film we produced this year about the 2019/20 bushfires, highlighting the underlying causes of climate change and native forest logging. Watch it here >>
We’ve done so much more than I could include in a single blog, but I hope these highlights remind you of the enormous impact we have when we work together and give you a renewed sense of hope for the year ahead.
Thank you again for making all this possible and for being a part of the caring community that is Environment Victoria.