Friends of the Earth Melbourne (FoE) kicked off the Act on Climate campaign in January 2017. The new project was established as key campaigns for a legislated ban on unconventional gas and ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Targets concluded.
The main objective of the new campaign was to start building a climate policy agenda for Victoria. With a five-year campaign cycle coming to a close, it was essential to put new ideas on the table and start building community power for another round of climate action.
What follows is the story of the campaign so far…
ACT ON CLIMATE IN 2017:
Securing passage of the Climate Change Act
The Act on Climate campaign emerged as legislation to strengthen Victoria’s climate change law was before the state Parliament.
The Climate Change Act version 1.0 became law in 2010. The legislation compelled governments to be transparent with climate goals and enshrined an emissions reduction target for the state. That was until 2011 when the Liberal National government of Ted Baillieu gutted the act.
After five lost years, the opportunity to put teeth back into the climate act came in the form of a one-off independent review of the act. The drafters of the act inserted the requirement into the original legislation.
The downfall of the climate change blocking Baillieu/Napthine government was another factor allowing progress on state climate change policy. The Daniel Andrews Labor government agreed to implement the recommendations of the review.
The upgraded to the Victorian Climate Change Act would:
- Legislate a net-zero emissions target by 2050.
- Require governments to set transparent interim Emissions Reduction Targets on a five-yearly basis.
- See the preparation of adaptation plans for each sector of the economy every five years.
- Subject governments that fail to account for climate change in decision-making to judicial review.
Efforts to strengthen state climate change laws were thrown into doubt in December 2016 when the Matthew Guy opposition voted against the bill in the lower house. The fate of the bill would be determined by the crossbench in the upper house.
The community-powered Act on Climate campaign jumped into this political situation to help see the bill pass.
Sex Party MP (now Reason Party) Fiona Patten pledged to support the bill after discussing climate change impacts with collective members on the steps of Parliament. James Purcell (MLC) pledged to back the bill in a meeting with the legendary wind workers of Keppel Prince in Portland.
Securing the backing of key MPs allowed Act on Climate to shift focus to the opposition. The collective leafleted state parliamentarians and staff during the first sitting week of 2017, calling on them to be climate champions not climate blockers.
In partnership with Friends of the Earth affiliate Healthy Futures we coordinated an open letter to Mary Wooldridge—shadow health minister and leader of the opposition on the upper house—calling for her to allow the amendments to pass. The open letter signed by leading health organisations from the Public Health Association Australia to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
On Thursday 23 February, the strengthened Victorian Climate Change Act 2017 became law with the support of Labor and Greens MPs, Fiona Patten and James Purcell. The Act established Victoria as national leader on climate policy and provides a foundation stone to build on.
Community members hold the Fed govt to account for climate inaction
In late 2016, the Turnbull government flagged it would undertake a review of national climate change policy. With a recent track record of boosting fossil fuels and attacking environment groups, Act on Climate had no faith in the process.
Act on Climate used the review to send a signal to the Federal government that the community is angered by its poor performance on the issue. Community members helped us “crowd source” 16 actions the Coalition has taken to stall action on climate change. These formed the basis of an ‘anti-submission’ to the review.
Hundred of community members contacted the secretariat listed the Coalition’s failures on climate change. They stated that they would only participate in a policy review after the Turnbull government demonstrated it takes the issue seriously. The government could do this by withdrawing support for the Adani coal mine and ceasing attacks on state renewable energy targets and bans/moratoria on onshore gasfields. The action resulted in 322 ‘anti-submissions’ being sent to the review—two dozen shy of matching the total number of formal entries, 357).
In the dying weeks of 2017, Act on Climate highlighted the Turnbull government’s strategy to bury the climate policy review by releasing it in the days leading up to Christmas. We helped expose the government’s cynical move.
Building the case for Vic's first climate budget
Act on Climate identified the state budget as the logical next step for climate action in Victoria immediately after the passage of the strengthened Climate Change Act 2017.
There are four pillars to Friends of the Earth’s concept for a climate budget.
Firstly, Victoria will have to increase the level of investment in initiatives to meet state emissions reduction goals and protect communities from climate change impacts. Secondly, the government departments will have to start accounting for climate change risk in their decision-making processes (i.e: carbon valuation). Thirdly, Treasury would bring transparency to government expenditure on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster response. And finally, the government would ensure the community had a say in budget allocations towards climate change (i.e: citizen juries).
We launched a social media campaign in the lead up to the 2017-18 state budget. rolled out during the budget build up to raise questions about the allocation towards initiatives to rein in emissions and help protect communities from climate impacts.
Coordinator Leigh Ewbank attended the ‘budget lock up’ and spearheaded our rapid response in the media. The release of the Federal budget the following week—which omitted any mention of climate change—allowed us compare and contrast the record of Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas and Federal counterpart Scott Morrison.
Act on Climate held a positive action at the Australian Labor Party’s state conference. An opinion article detailing the climate budget concept was published by the popular website, Renew Economy. A small band of Act on Climate volunteers distributed flyers to delegates on the morning of the conference. Columnist for The Guardian Van Badham amplified the action with a live broadcast over Facebook.
Throughout the year Friends of the Earth campaigns coordinator Cam Walker, Leigh Ewbank, and collective plugged the climate budget by whatever means possible. The climate budget was the subject of media engagement and a consistent feature of our social media. Public events in Collingwood, Maryborough, Tarnagulla, and Ararat, among others, helped us take the idea to the community.
Testament to these efforts, a major breakthrough came at an event organised by Act on Climate in Maryborough. Special guest speaker Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced a $4.8 million grant scheme to help get local climate change projects up and running. The scheme will demonstrate the benefits a climate budget. Collective members attended consultation sessions held by the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP) and encouraged community participation in the grant scheme.
Act on Climate finished the year strong with back-to-back events at the Victorian Parliament.
A community rally on the steps of the Victorian Parliament was held on November 1—the day the Climate Change Act 2017 took effect. More than 100 people attended the event emceed by Van Badham and heard from speakers from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Friends of the Earth, and Lighter Footprints, about ‘what’s next’ for climate policy in Victoria. (The rally was step one in a Day of Action on Climate Change that collaborated with Stop Adani, Market Forces, and Quit Coal).
Finally, partnering with RMIT University, Friends of the Earth organised a policy-focused event in the Victorian Parliament. The discussion—introduced by Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, emceed by Anna Skarbek (ClimateWorks), and featuring Simon à Holmes, and Lauren Rickards—presented ideas for the next round of climate policy making.
With the Climate Change Act 2017 in place and Victorian Renewable Energy Target transforming the electricity sector, adaptation policy and upgrading the budget to respond to climate change was the focus. This event put the climate budget message on the agenda of MPs in attendance.
Connecting with communities in country Victoria
Act on Climate spent a substantial part of 2017 on the road. We travelled from Ararat to Donald, Wedderburn to Waubra, and Portland to Mirboo North. Coordinator Leigh Ewbank has met with councilors, local business owners, farmers, Landcare groups, catchment management networks, Rotary Clubs, wind farmers, health services, neighbourhood houses, supporters, to understand how climate change is affecting their communities.
Local climate change solutions and impacts have been highlighted throughout these trips. They have been documented on Twitter via the #ClimateImpactsVic and #VicClimateSolutions hashtags. Our engagement has been the feature of several local media articles.
As mentioned, Act on Climate organised a community event in Maryborough with Minister for Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio where a multi-million dollar grant scheme was announced. We presented a follow-up Climate & Energy Forum in Ararat to set the record straight on the issues and present new social research on the perceptions of climate change. The collective also supported an event organised by community members in Tarnagulla and appeared as a guest at events in Woodend, Hamilton, and Mirboo North.
Supporting the passage of the Victorian Renewable Energy Target
The Act on Climate collective showed solidarity with sister campaign Yes 2 Renewables in the weeks leading up to a parliamentary vote on the Victorian Renewable Energy Target. The VRET scheme is expected to cut the state’s electricity sector emissions by 16 percent and will help the state meet legislated target of zero-net emissions by 2050.
To build excitement for the VRET in the community in the lead up to the Parliamentary debate, Act on Climate and Yes 2 Renewables collaborated on a photo petition where supporters took a selfie urging MPs to vote ‘yes to renewables.’
Act on Climate coordinated an action on the steps of Parliament House, flyering all MP, staffers, and journalists who were present. The flyer articulated the benefits of the VRET and called for all politicians to support efforts to tackle climate change with an affirmative vote.
A team of collective members attended Parliamentary debates and votes on the bill. Those who were present in the public gallery live-tweeted the debate—acting as a watchdog and performing live accountability work (Liberal MP Roma Britnell noted us in her contribution).
Our friends on the Central Goldfields called on their local member, Liberal MP Louise Staley, to support the bill. The highlight of which was a community banner photo at Maryborough’s iconic train station.
To the north, Buloke Shire Councilor Ellen White drafted a motion of support for the VRET and urged state MPs vote ‘yes’ to the bill. The Buloke Shire council passed the motion.
The Renewable Energy Jobs & Investment Bill 2017 passed both houses of Parliament. Australia’s largest reverse auction for renewable energy is now underway and the first projects towards meeting the Victorian Renewable Energy Target are being built.
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