Originally published at Renew Economy.
Victoria will go to the polls in less than three months. The outcome of the 2018 state election will have big implications for tackling climate change and rolling out renewable energy.
Given that pundits are saying it will be a “knife edge” election, every vote matters. And the policies Labor and the Coalition take to the election on climate change could decide who forms government.
Will Premier Daniel Andrews and Labor seize the initiative and bring an ambitious package of commitments to its election platform? Will Matthew Guy and the Liberal National Party protect a point of vulnerability with voters by modernising their stance on climate change and energy?
Community-driven environment group Friends of the Earth have welcomed the Andrews government's Solar Homes Plan to rollout solar panels on 650,000 homes across Victoria.
The group—which has been working with community members in the Central Goldfields, Northern Grampians, and Ararat who are concerned about climate change impacts—have lauded the initiative for cutting power bills and the emissions causing climate change. Participating households are expected to save $800 on power bills and the initiative will cut Victoria's emissions by four million tonnes.
"The Andrews government's Solar Homes Plan is an opportunity for people in Maryborough, Stawell, Ararat and surrounding regions to save on their power bills while helping to tackle climate change," said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth's spokesperson.
"Maryborough and the Central Goldfields region, for example, is already seeing the impacts of climate change having experienced the driest July on record in 2017 and record-breaking heat in April this year. Victoria saw record-breaking heat in April this year and we've seen bushfires in East Gippsland."
"The Andrews government's solar rollout will contribute towards Victoria meeting its legislated target of zero net emissions by 2050."
Friends of the Earth expects the Solar Homes Plan to see towns in the state electorate of Ripon build on their strong solar uptake.
We have the solutions to climate change. Humanity has known for decades that the burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gas into the atmosphere which drives atmospheric warming and worsens events such as droughts, bushfires, damaging storms, and rising sea levels.
In knowing the cause of climate change we have developed the solutions such as renewable energy technology, methods to restore and preserve carbon sinks, and sustainable economic models.
We have the solutions to climate change, however what Australia has lacked in the past is the political will to enact them. Friends of the Earth's Act on Climate collective is seeking to change this with the campaign for Victoria's first Climate Budget.
With a modernised state budget, Victoria can invest in the comprehensive actions we know we need to take to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, such as intensifying bushfire seasons.
This blog presents a brief overview of the state budget, environmental funding, what a Climate Budget would look like, and why it's sorely needed.
Friends of the Earth has welcomed the Andrews government's twin announcements of the Grampians New Energy Taskforce and funding for the Asia-Pacific Renewable Energy Centre at Federation Uni in Ballarat, yet the group has called for a planned approach for investment in climate change solutions from the state government.
"By making investments like these the Andrews government is acknowledging the importance of acting on climate change," said Act on Climate Vic coordinator Leigh Ewbank.
"To make sure Victorians are getting the most bang for buck the Andrews government can take the next step and establish a Victorian Climate Change Action Fund to address this critical issue."
With alarming melting of the polar icecaps underway, back-to-back bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, and Australia seeing a longer and more intense bushfire season, we have no time to waste when it comes to action on climate change.
Yet Australia's emissions are rising and funding for climate change initiatives has been slashed on the Federal Coalition government's watch. The policy failure leaves communities exposed to intensifying heatwaves, bushfires, droughts, and extreme weather.
It's time for Premier Daniel Andrews to push back on the Turnbull government and show leadership on climate change.
In 2017, the state Labor government established the $4.3 million Victorian Climate Change Innovation Partnerships (VCCIP) Grant Scheme to help community groups, local councils, businesses, and non-government organisations rollout innovative climate solutions.
But there's a problem... Demand for the climate grant scheme dramatically outstripped what was available.
The Act on Climate collective and community members took the case for climate action to the Victorian Parliament on World Environment Day 2018—presenting the government, opposition, and the Greens with a community statement calling for leadership.
The statement calls for party leaders—Premier Daniel Andrews, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, and Samantha Ratnam (Greens)—to consider the community's views and provide a response.
A few weeks earlier, on April 22, over fifty community members participated in a discussion about climate impacts, brainstormed positive solutions to the issue, and formed unanimous agreement on the need for Victorian political parties to take urgent action.
The ‘crowd-sourced’ ideas formed the basis of the statement which was handed over to Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio; Minister and member for Albert Park, Martin Foley; Greens MP for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell; as well as Liberal party shadows for energy and environment, David Southwick and Nick Wakeling.
The supporters who joined us to handover the statement shared powerful testimony about their concerns regarding climate impacts with the Parliamentarians.
Deputy Premier and Emergency Services Minister James Merlino has told a parliamentary inquiry that climate change is putting an increasing strain on Victoria's emergency services such as firefighting.
"Climate change is real and it's having an impact on our emergency services," Mr Merlino said.
In statements to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, the Minister noted that Victoria's bushfire season is starting earlier, lasting longer, and becoming more intense from climate change. These factors are making it challenging to manage the aviation fleet of large tankers that are also used in the northern hemisphere.
Friends of the Earth commend the Deputy Premier for his frank comments about the real impacts of climate change.
"It's refreshing to hear Deputy Premier James Merlino's honest comments about the impacts of climate change," said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth's Act on Climate coordinator.
"Mr Merlino's comments underscore the need for urgent action to tackle climate change."
Environment group Friends of the Earth says big ticket items to tackle climate change and protect Victoria’s environment are the “missing piece of the puzzle” in budget 2018/19—a disappointing one for the environment.
The Andrews government’s allocation towards climate change and environment is down from last year’s budget--from $798 million in budget 2017/18 to $266 million this budget cycle.
"With climate change impacts becoming more and more obvious, it’s disappointing to see the Andrews government’s 2018 budget fail to deliver big ticket items for climate change and environmental protection," said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth spokesperson.
“The community is looking to the Labor government to have vision when it comes to our environment—such as by establishing the Great Forest National Park and championing the rollout of renewable energy.”
Friends of the Earth say the downward trajectory of environment-related expenditure is a sign the budget process is failing to account for climate change:
"While the government in planning ahead when it comes to education, health, and infrastructure, it’s failing to plan ahead for the great challenge of our time—climate change,” said Leigh Ewbank.