The Victorian Labor government has pledged to get the state – host to the country’s remaining brown coal generators – to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with the release of a series of five-year interim climate change policies and programs.
The yet to be legislated, long-term emissions reduction target comes in response to the recommendations of the 2015 Independent Review of the Climate Change Act 2010, most of which have been accepted by the Andrews government.
The supporting policies, released by Premier Daniel Andrews and climate and energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Thursday, include a wide-ranging emissions reduction pledge program for the private, government and community sectors.
The government said the pledge program – called TAKE2 – would give those businesses and organisations already acting on climate change the opportunity to showcase their efforts and to build on it; while also inspiring others to take action.
Participation in the program will also give businesses and organisations a say on the development of a 2020 interim emissions reduction target for the state, which the government plans to have in place by the end of the year.
Further to the review’s recommendations, the government has also committed to amend the Climate Change Act (CCA) to require a Victorian Climate Change Strategy every five years, incorporating mitigation and adaptation; require integrated Adaptation Action Plans for key climate exposed sectors; and embed climate mitigation and adaptation as a key consideration in government decision making.
Premier Andrews said that updating the state’s laws and introducing a firm target to reduce emissions would ensure “we take advantage of the new jobs and economic opportunities created by renewable energy.”
ClimateWorks Australia CEO, Anna Skarbek said the 2050 emissions target was achievable and urged other Australian governments to make similar commitments.
“All governments – federal, state and local – have critical roles to play in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Victoria now joins South Australia and the ACT in committing to a net zero emissions reduction target by 2050 and we hope that other governments will soon follow suit,” she said.
Environmental groups have also welcomed the announcement, and say it puts the state back in the game on climate action after years of falling behind.
“The Coalition government gutted the CCA while it was in power,” said Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker.
“As a result, our state lost five years in a decade where the global community had a rapidly closing opportunity to act to reduce emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
“Daniel Andrews has already established his government as being progressive and proactive on a range of key issues like family violence and the huge health impacts of the Hazelwood fire,” said Walker.
“The Premier’s first major intervention on climate change policy is significant because of the key role a re-built CCA must play in re-shaping our economy to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.”
Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham said setting a clear target for zero climate pollution provided a strong signal for all future government and business decisions, but added that that target needed to be reached as quickly as possible.
“For the road toll, the aim is to reach zero. Targets for climate pollution are now the same – zero damage. The sooner we get there the better, and the more damage we can avoid,” Wakeham said.
“While 2050 is a long time away, there are some immediate implications,” he said.
“As well as strengthening climate legislation in coming months, we need a clear plan from the Andrews Government for supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency and phasing out Victoria’s coal-burning power stations.”
Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson Leigh Ewbank agrees: “A plan to phase out coal power and transition coal communities is now the priority for state energy policy,” he said.
Ewbank also suggested a permanent ban on onshore gas and strong Victorian Renewable Energy Target to “supercharge” the state’s climate change initiatives.
“The test of the government’s resolve to show leadership will come when it releases the re-worked CCA,” added FoE’s Walker – this is expected later in the year.
“It is essential that the government ‘front load’ emissions reductions, with much of the heavy lifting being done in the next 10 years.”