Federal spending on environment and climate change measures has fallen dramatically under successive Coalition governments, leading an environmental group to declare that it was effectively “killing our environment”.
An analysis produced by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) estimated that just 53 cents of every $100 spent by the federal government go towards environmental and climate change challenges.
This includes just 37 cents per $100 spent that go towards environmental protection and just 16 cents spent towards tackling climate change – a rate that the ACF described as “killing” the environment.
The ACF published the analysis a day before the Morrison government will deliver the next federal budget, which will include further support for the gas industry and for roads.
The environmental group said that the funding for conservation and climate measures was not sufficient and that the federal government needed to invest more in protecting Australia’s natural environment.
“Australia, and the planet, are in the midst of an environmental crisis that is unprecedented in human history,” ACF’s economy and democracy program manager, Matt Rose, said. “Australia is a global leader in extinction and per capita climate pollution.
“Our budgetary priorities suggest our elected representatives do not really care about Australia’s unique wildlife or about handing on a safe climate to coming generations.”
ACF pointed to the significant increases in spending being made by governments in other countries, which have embraced the clean energy sector as part of measures to stimulate national economies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year, the European Union signed off on a €750 billion ($A1.2 trillion) plan for a low emissions economic recovery to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ambitious package includes funding to increase the uptake of low emissions energy sources.
Newly elected US president Joe Biden has also overseen the passage of a US$2 trillion green recovery plan, that incorporates a wide range of spending on new sustainable infrastructure projects designed to support economic recovery while cutting US greenhouse gas emissions.
In contrast, the ACF analysis suggests the Australian federal government will spend just $1.083 billion in the 2020-21 financial year on climate change related measures.
ACF said that a further $2.4 billion was spent on environmental measures in the last budget, which was an increase in spending in gross terms compared to the 2013-14 budget, but that the increase had not kept pace with overall increases in government spending under the budget, which had increased by 60 per cent over the same period.
ACF estimated that combined spending on environment and climate measures should be above $5 billion annually, had the government increased spending had grown at the same rate as the rest of the federal budget.
Most of this expenditure is made through agencies like the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, originally established under the former Gillard government.
“While some countries have taken the COVID crisis as a prompt to reshape their economies and invest heavily in a clean recovery, our government has squandered this opportunity, opting instead to invest in gas – a highly polluting fossil fuel,” Rose added.
“Since 2013-14 the government has shifted its climate spending out of the department to climate agencies, like ARENA and the CEFC. Funding for departmental climate functions has fallen by almost 50 per cent since 2013-14, while funding to climate agencies increased by 50 per cent.”
Overall, ACF noted that spending on climate measures as a share of the overall budget had fallen under the Coalition, compared to the previous Labor government. Climate spending declined 0.25 per cent of total federal budget spending in 2013-14 to just 0.16 per cent in last year’s federal budget.
“Our analysis shows funding to preserve Australia’s biodiversity continues to be savagely cut, with projections in forward estimates projecting a 56% decline in administered conservation spending – a cut of more than $200 million on the 2013-14 financial year,” Rose said.
“Policy reform and investment are critical to improve the health of Australia’s environment and build resilience to existing, emerging and future threats.”
The Morrison government will unveil its latest federal budget on Tuesday evening, which will include $58.6 million in spending on new gas infrastructure projects, and $263.7 million towards new carbon capture and storage projects.
On Monday, the Morrison government announced that the budget would also include a $10 billion spending package on new roads and rail projects that will be spent on highway and road upgrades but will provide no support for electric vehicle infrastructure.
The package includes a $173.6 million spend on new roads for gas projects in the Northern Territory.