A few months after the 2013 election, then Environment Minister Greg Hunt addressed the Clean Energy Council Annual meeting to outline the Coalition’s plans to protect the environment and tackle climate change after they repealed the carbon price.
His words, as it turns out, meant absolutely nothing.
Perhaps Australia’s most important natural asset – the Great Barrier Reef – is a particular focus of the Coalition’s Clean Water strategy. Our Reef 2050 plan seeks to tackle the risks to reef health with a $40 million Reef Trust to fund major projects.
On top of the $40 million cut from the Reef Water Quality Program in 2014, the government cut a total of $10 million from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
The Government accepts the science of climate change. The Government has made a commitment to provide an additional $9 million over three years for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility to support practical research and guidance on how to deal with the challenges of climate change.
Alongside the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, NCCARF plays a vital role in making our world-leading research on climate change actionable.
The government cut hundreds of millions in funding, and hundreds of jobs, from the CSIRO and BoM and appointed venture capitalist Larry Marshall to head the CSIRO. His view is that human-induced climate change is now confirmed, so there is now less need for climate science. He is more interested in commercial ventures that will make a profit.
The 2017 federal budget axed funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), an agency that provides information to decision-makers on how best to manage the risks of climate change and sea level rise.
We are committed to our unconditional emissions reduction target to reduce emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by the year 2020.
With a 2020 reduction target of 5 per cent, Australia would need to almost halve its emissions in the decade to 2030, and have only 14 per cent of the recommended carbon budget left for the next two decades.
The Government’s new commitment plans to cut emissions by 26 per cent by 2030 on 2005 levels. Why the change in base year? To make the percentage sound higher.
In 2005 Australia emitted 532 million tonnes of carbon. Reducing that by 26 per cent will shave 138 million tonnes off our accounts. That would take our annual emissions to 394 million tonnes.
If we took the 1990 starting point, as those who initially signed up to Kyoto do, then getting to 394 million tonnes would actually be just an 8 per cent reduction. If we stuck with 2000, the reduction would be just over 20%.
Ongoing developments in solar power technology provide enormous opportunities for Australian households and families to take direct action to reduce energy consumption and household emissions, while at the same time delivering real savings for family budgets.
Our Direct Action Plan therefore encompasses support for solar power through our million roofs and solar towns and schools programmes.
The Government will provide $500 million for the One Million Solar Roofs Programme; and a further $50 million each for the Solar Towns and Solar Schools Programmes.
The One Million Solar Roofs Programme didn’t even last three weeks after Hunt’s speech. There was no mention of it in the December 2013 MYEFO but it took until May for Hunt to confirm the program had been scrapped.
The Solar Schools program was implemented by Labor who funded solar installations in over 5000 schools. I cannot find any record of the Coalition continuing the program beyond 2013.
The Solar Towns program gave out three rounds of funding totalling less than $1.5 million before it was replaced by the $5 million Solar Communities program at the last election which has yet to deliver any funding.
These initiatives are in addition to support for renewable energy through the Renewable Energy Target and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which is funding projects as well as research across the spectrum of renewable energy sources, including bioenergy, hydropower, geothermal, ocean energy and wind.
By June 2015, legislation to cut the renewable energy target (RET) had passed Federal Parliament, along with the contentious inclusion of native wood waste as a possible fuel source.
The 2014 budget sought to abolish ARENA altogether. A protracted battle has seen it have to accept funding cuts of $500 million rather than the $1.3 billion initially proposed by the Turnbull government in its omnibus bill in September last year.
The final Direct Action measure I want to mention is our commitment to plant 20 Million Trees by 2020 to re-establish green corridors and urban forests on both public and private land.
The 20 Million Trees Programme will be complemented by a range of other new government initiatives, including the Green Army and the National Landcare Programme
The 2014 budget cut $483 million from the National Landcare Program to help pay for the original $700 million allocated for the Green Army. But in his first mid-year budget update in December 2015, Turnbull cut that by more than $300 million before abolishing the Green Army altogether the next year.
Based on progress reports, it’s estimated 2.89 million native trees have been planted but this will make very little difference when more than 20 million trees are cleared each year in Queensland alone.
As I listened to a very ‘sincere’ Josh Frydenberg on Insiders bemoaning the toxic politics that has caused energy investment to dry up whilst exhorting the Labor Party to deliver the certainty that business needs, I just shook my head at his audacity.
Josh, I don’t believe a word you or your party says.
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