The slow train wreck of climate change policy is still unfolding in Australia. National emissions are rising on the Federal Coalition’s watch, and Australia will fail to meet the meagre emissions cuts it pledged to the Paris Agreement.
Regressive political forces at the national level have seen states and territories step up and lead on climate change. But they’ll have to make the most of existing initiatives and ramp up public investment to maintain the momentum.
States and territories have outshined the federal government in recent years. From the ACT adopting a renewable energy target of 100 percent by 2020 to South Australia’s enthusiasm for solar-thermal and battery storage (as well as this week’s impressive announcements). Even the NSW Liberal government has set a target of zero emissions by 2050.
Victoria is a part of this story too. A year ago today, the Andrews government strengthened the state’s climate change laws after winning the support of The Greens and crossbenchers.
The legislation brought the state’s climate change laws inline with the Paris Agreement. It enshrined a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and requires the government to set interim Emissions Reduction Targets every five years.
The Andrews government’s 2017 legacy also includes the country’s first legislated ban on fracking and onshore gasfields as well as a Victorian Renewable Energy Target of 40 by 2025.
With state elections on the horizon, those who are concerned about climate change want to know one thing: How will the states and territories lead on climate change in 2018?
Despite alarming melting of the polar icecaps, unprecedented bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, and parts of the country experiencing record heat, the Turnbull government’s attention is on political scandals rather than substantive policy issues.
The pace of progress on climate policy in South Australia and Tasmania will become clear after elections in March. Here in Victoria, the government has plenty of time to secure gains before the state heads to the polls in November.
In the coming months the Andrews government will, for the first time, set Emissions Reduction Targets for 2025 and 2030.
Victoria can help put Australia back on track but only with a commitment to science-based targets that are in line with the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5°Celsius. For Victoria to prepare its economy for the climate change challenge, it’s essential to do the heavy lift of cutting emissions now
In Australia’s most progressive state, a Labor government trumping Turnbull’s weak climate change targets will be popular with voters—especially environmentally conscious voters.
With global warming accelerating, progress on renewables and climate legislation must be followed by serious investment. This makes the budget the logical next step for climate change action.
There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for climate change. Communities in rural and regional areas face qualitatively different impacts to those in urban and inner-city neighbourhoods. What unites them all is the need for government support.
The annual budget process is where governments reveal their priorities. Citizens look closely at budget allocations towards healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
When will we see governments make investing in climate change action a priority?
It will take a sizeable public investment to prepare our cities and towns for the impacts of climate change. A clear program of infrastructure investment is needed to cope with the impact of rising sea levels, increased bushfire risk, and extreme weather. And projects to rein in emissions need support too.
If preparing our communities and economy for the immediate impact and future challenges isn’t the preserve of government, then what is?
Climate change is not going away. If the Federal Coalition government won’t lead then it’ll be up to the states and territories to do the lifting.
The first government to commit to a ‘climate-focused’ budget would position itself as a national leader.
Leigh Ewbank is Friends of the Earth’s Act on Climate coordinator. He has been active the climate and energy policy debate since 2008. You can follow Leigh on Twitter at @TheRealEwbank.