The findings of the ‘Combet report’—the independent advice to the Andrews government on emissions cuts—have been tabled in Parliament. The report has kicked off the decision-making process about Victoria's first interim Emissions Reduction Targets.
Victoria has a legislated target of zero-net emissions by 2050. The government has until 31 March 2020 to set targets for the years 2025 and 2030.
While the Combet Report recommends ‘flexible’ targets of 32-39 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 45-60 percent below 2005 levels in 2030, the real test is whether the government will commit to targets that meet the 1.5°C challenge.
We are 10 reasons why we should fight for science-based targets that are both bold and ambitious...
1. Climate change is a local problem
We all know climate change is a global problem. Some of Australia’s closest neighbours in the Pacific Islands are already feeling the effects of climate change - as many as five islands have been swallowed by rising sea levels.
But the effects of climate change can most definitely be seen at a local level. They are already being felt locally here in Victoria. Inverloch, for example, has already seen sea level rises. Resident citizen scientist Aileen Vening has documented a whopping 40 metres of erosion since 2012.
The wonderful folks at the Bass Coast Climate Action Network are continuing to document climate effects, like extreme weather events and storm surges. Act on Climate are currently working to compile the frontline effects of climate change being experienced by communities around Victoria. If you have any experiences of climate effects in your local area, or know of anyone who does, we'd love to hear from you! Share your story here.
The Victorian government has the opportunity to help mitigate further climate effects in Victoria and around the world. Reducing emissions is the best way to reduce further sea level rises.
2. Act as a climate leader in Australia
Victoria is a big emitter. We produce over double the carbon emissions per capita (18.4 tons) than the whole country of Belgium (8.3 tons), even though our population is almost half its size!
Victoria may be a big emitter, but that means if we get serious about climate action, we can have a big impact. Reducing our carbon footprint would take a mammoth amount of carbon out of the atmosphere!
While national climate policy is crucial, state and territory governments can make a real difference when they take a leading role in reducing emissions. At the same time, Victoria can act as a climate leader beyond the state’s boundaries. We can encourage other states and, especially, national climate action.
Having ambitious emission reduction targets demonstrates to the federal government that Australians are not willing to accept climate inaction.
3. Make sure we’re on track to Paris
Most of us are familiar with the ‘2 degrees’ warning for climate change. But the IPCC and scientists now agree that 1.5°C degrees above pre-industrial levels is the uppermost limit before we reach ecological catastrophe.
The Paris Agreement notes that global action should aim to keep climate warming to below the 1.5°C degree threshold. Australia agreed to play its part and to reduce its emissions by
26 to 28 percent on 2005 levels by the year 2030. Unfortunately, in order to keep warming to below even 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures, 26 to 28 percent reductions doesn’t achieve this aim.
The Federal Coalition has a poor track record on climate action. It's efforts are woefully inadequate even to meet the meagre Paris target.
In order to meet our obligations, the federal government is using an accounting trick. So, rather than actually committing to CO2 reductions, they are looking to use “carryover credits” from the Kyoto period—credits that accrued because Australia managed to wrangle and increase in emissions for itself for that period!
With an utter dearth of national climate policy the states have to take on a leadership role and set ambitious emission reduction targets, steering Australia towards success on its Paris goal—and further. Because even the Paris targets are too modest.
We’ve heard politicians at the national level who seek to block climate action say that Australia need not bother taking action, because unless the rest of the globe follows, ‘it won’t make any difference.’ That is an unhinged logic which denies the reality of teamwork. The Paris Agreement is that collective, global promise to all take action. If we act now and act ambitiously, even at the state level, we can help Australia fulfil its promise to our global partners.
What this means is that we need even more ambitious emission reduction goals than ever before!
4. Help Protect Victoria's forests
Victoria is home to diverse landscapes and ecosystems. The land is significant to its owners, from the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation (“Melbourne” area) to the Yorta Yorta peoples at the north of the state.
It is also significant to the many other people who engage with the landscape, whether to appreciate its great beauty, to farm it or to help conserve it. It is significant to the wildlife that call Victoria home.
The land is deeply threatened by the effects of climate change. However, it is also an important piece of the puzzle in climate mitigation.
Research shows Victoria is home to the the world’s most carbon dense forests. Forests store carbon as plant and animal detritus slowly breaks down. This makes forests one of the most efficient carbon storage ‘technologies’. And trees also act as carbon capture and transformation tech by turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. Logging and land clearing practices release forests’ stored carbon, adding loads of emissions to the atmosphere and removing an established forest which might have helped clean the atmosphere for hundreds more years.
The wonderful folk at Friends of the Earth’s Forest Collective are campaigning to protect Victoria’s forests through creation of conservation areas and a transition plan for workers.
Over here at Act on Climate, we’re backing up the Forest Collective’s work by fighting for Victoria to make ambitious Emissions Reduction Targets. The Paris Agreement now recognises the role of forests in stopping climate change.
Now it’s time for the Victorian government to take seriously the detrimental effects of deforestation on emissions. Its own report on climate shows that forest clearing produces emissions in the short-term (Fig. 34), but of course, it also stops carbon capture by trees in the long-term.
It's time to protect our great asset for safely drawing carbon emissions out of the atmosphere!
5. Look after our wildlife
Lots of diverse marsupial, bird, marine, and other species call Victoria home but many of these species are under increasing threat the worse climate change gets.
As ocean temperatures rise, there will be ‘detrimental effects’ on the cold-temperate species that call Victoria’s waters home. If we continue to clear land for dirty coal mining, mammals and other species will have their habitats demolished and face greater existential threat. Victoria’s sweetheart, the Leadbeater’s possum, is already endangered due to habitat loss; other species will follow unless we change the way we think about land.
In Victoria’s high country, the Mountain Pygmy Possum is under threat from both a major decline of a critical food source, the Bogong Moth, and the fact that, as temperatures rise, they cannot simply move further up the mountain to avoid those elevated temperatures - there is no more mountain to move up! Let’s not even mention the devastating bushfires that have wreaked damage to the high plains.
Science-based emissions cuts make a contribution towards protecting habitat for wildlife that is on the brink. No matter how strong our other conservation efforts are, mitigating carbon emissions is necessary to save species from the myriad threats that come with climate change.
6. More public transport
Transport contributes a whopping 20 percent of Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yet still there are new projects in the works to expand Victoria’s roads - particularly toll roads we will pay through the teeth for and which will only encourage even more cars onto the roads.
The recent Victorian 2019/20 budget has dedicated an exorbitant $15.8 billion to the North East Link, which is then set to become a toll road. So not only will Victorians pay once with our taxes, but we will pay twice or even many times over as we pay our way in tolls!
The folks at Friends of the Earth’s Sustainable Cities Collective are working hard to see more investment in public transport accessible to all, instead of expensive toll roads geared to the profit of toll companies. Perhaps we could also see a way for the government to assist bus companies to transition from dirty diesel buses to clean electric options. Of course, this would also help to provide customers for even more renewable electricity generation!
At Act on Climate, we’re backing them up. Ambitious Emissions Reduction Targets would discourage investment in polluting transport options like car travel, its associated (toll) roads, and freight via truck, while encouraging investment in public transport and active transport.
7. Stop new fossil fuel developments
Burning fossil fuels is the single greatest cause of the climate crisis. Despite this fact, various new dirty fossil fuel projects have been proposed and/or accepted in Victoria recently.
First, more than 1300 square kilometres of Australia’s Western coast was opened up for gas exploration by the Victorian government in 2018. Second, AGL wants to turn Westernport Bay into a giant gas import terminal, threatening seals, birds, and sea dragons that all call the area home.
With Australia now the world’s greatest exporter of LNG and the export terminal in Queensland connected to Victoria by the east coast gas grid, how can it possibly make financial or environmental sense to then import gas back into Victoria with all the impacts on both the marine environment and RAMSAR listed wetlands? Third, Victoria’s LaTrobe Valley is set to become a test site for producing hydrogen from brown coal.
The tenacious folks at Friends of the Earth Melbourne have been working hard alongside affected communities to stop the development of new dirty energy. They have stalled the installation of several past and current new developments.
Grassroots campaigns have already succeeded in getting the Andrews government to commit to banning fracking across the state—a ban that should soon be immortalised in the constitution. We have shown how successful working together to change state policy can be. Sounds pretty fracking good to me!
We will continue to support the amazing community groups standing up to mining companies. Supporting ambitious Emission Reduction Targets is the perfect policy to support this grassroots action. It sends a clear market signal that Victoria will not be the sandpit for mining companies and make approval for such projects much harder.
8. Deliver more Renewable Energy and More Jobs
Electricity generation is the single most polluting sector in Victoria, pumping out over 50 percent of our total emissions. Our electricity generation relies most heavily on coal. This isn’t good enough if we want to reduce our emissions in time to avert the worst impacts of climate change, do our bit to address the crisis.
The folks at Yes 2 Renewables have been working hard to promote the growth of renewables. Their campaign encouraged the Victorian government to set ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Targets.
Over here at Act on Climate, we’re looking forward to backing up our friends at Y2R. Ambitious Emissions Reduction Targets could see an increase to the Victorian Renewable Energy Targets. It can ensure our most polluting sector—the energy sector—pulls its weight.
Ambitious targets for cutting emissions and growing renewables will create a clean energy future, strengthening the case for wonderful new projects like powering Melbourne’s trains with renewable energy!
9. More jobs and a healthier economy
The global economy is already in transition. The market is responding to climate change, with cleaner options like renewable energy and electric vehicles becoming bigger and bigger players.
The same is true in Victoria, which is why we need to set up a clear framework for market activity that will promote even better and cleaner climate outcomes. Ambitious ERTs are the perfect policy mechanism to foster clean economic activity.
For businesses, high ERTs shows them that Victoria is a good place to locate clean businesses like wind farms, not dirty outfits like coal power plants. For consumers, ambitious ERTs reflect what Victorian consumers already want: cleaner energy, cleaner cars, and cleaner products without a whopping carbon footprint.
Best yet, however, a climate conscious policy setting creates more jobs: in solar energy, wind farms, public transport, climate science, conservation.
The International Labour Organization says climate action creates opportunities not just for ‘net gains in total employment’ but also ‘improvements in job quality and incomes on a large scale’ and social inclusion. The health benefits of the shift to renewable energy cannot be overstated - a cleaner grid equals a healthier community with all the reductions of health costs that that entails.
Ambitious ERTs are the best way to create clear market signals, discouraging dirty industries and encouraging clean ones, and to create more and better jobs in Victoria.
10. It’s the right thing to do
Climate change is a human rights issue. As we move through this century, more and more people will become climate refugees due to the extreme weather events and sea level rises caused by the climate change. As resources become more scarce, conflict between groups and nations becomes more likely. And of course, the economic model of continual growth, with its booms and busts, will see a lot more ‘bust’ than ‘boom’.
Wealthy nations have caused a disproportionately large share of the greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change. Australia has contributes 1.3 percent of global emissions, even though we make up only 0.3 percent of the world’s population.
The concept sustainability possesses two dimensions: spatial and temporal. The idea of spatial sustainability says that the actions of some people should not make the world an unsustainable place to live for others. This idea gets to the heart of why wealthy nations have a greater responsibility to act on climate change.
The idea of temporal sustainability, or sustainability over time, says that our actions in the present should not make the world unsustainable for future generations to live in. We’ve already seen the next generations showing their inspiring commitment to this idea. Thousands of young people have hit the streets for climate action with the School Strike for Climate.
It's important to act HERE and to act NOW for a sustainable present and future.
Here at Friends of the Earth, one of our favourite climate slogans is: "Change the system, not the climate." Making legislation more just and more environmentally conscious is a great way to start. For the good of the world as we know it, and for the good of the human race to come.
So let’s take responsibility for what we can change, in the name of climate justice, by advocating for Victoria to adopt Emissions Reduction Targets that meet the 1.5°C challenge!