Victoria’s leader of the opposition Michael O’Brien, has called on the federal Coalition government to raise the bar on climate policy, after announcing his own Liberal Party’s support of the need for state emissions reductions.
O’Brien told The Age that state emissions targets were necessary in the absence of a “consistent national policy,” and called on the Morrison government to set national targets for cutting emissions beyond 2030.
“I’d like to see a discussion about what federal targets we can have beyond 2030,” O’Brien told the paper. “But until we get to that point I think it’s appropriate for states such as Victoria … to have our own longer-term plans and strategies in the absence of an agreed national position.”
And he added: “In my mind, the same reason why the Liberal Party says we need to make sure we don’t pass on unsustainable debt to our kids is the same reason it says we don’t want to pass on an unsustainable environment to our kids.”
The comments come two-thirds of the way through what has been a brutal bushfire season for parts of Victoria – and neighbouring New South Wales – bringing climate policy to the fore of news and policy discussions.
It also comes as Daniel Andrews’ state Labor government promises to impose emission reduction targets of no less than 20 per cent by March 31, and potentially as high as 40 per cent.
Green group Friends of the Earth welcomed the policy shift from Victoria’s Liberal Party as a “good sign,” both for politics in general and for the smooth passage of Labor’s March emissions legislation efforts.
“It’s good to see Michael O’Brien acknowledge the surging community concern about the climate crisis and update opposition climate policy,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s climate spokesperson.
“The opposition can build on this positive first step by publicly backing the Victorian Climate Change Act. It’s a practical step to demonstrate its commitment to climate action.”
“(This shift) creates space for Premier Daniel Andrews to set science-based Emissions Reduction Targets that are bold and ambitious. With the Morrison government refusing to act, now’s the time for Victorian leadership,” said Ewbank.
O’Brien’s stance also adds a new layer of pressure on the federal Coalition government, as more and more of its state counterparts commit to ambitious policies on both climate and renewables.
In an interview with The Australian earlier this month, the New South Wales Liberal Party’s energy minister Matt Kean claimed federal MPs were unhappy with the Morrison government’s position on climate change.
The South Australia liberal government, of course, aims to reach “net 100 per cent renewables” by 2030.