2015 was the hottest year on record, and in February 2016, the world experienced weather that was 1.5°C above average temperatures for the first time. The Great Barrier Reef, tropical mangrove systems, and ancient Tasmanian forests are already being destroyed by global warming. Globally, the displacement of communities by climate change is already happening.
It is clear that the current warming of just one degree Celsius is not safe. Yet under current climate policies, globally we are heading to an overall warming of 3 – 4oC.
There is an urgent need for us to rapidly shift from our current reliance on coal, oil and gas if we are to do our part to avoid dangerous climate change.
In a report released during the international climate change negotiations in Marrakesh in 2016, research organisation Climate Analytics warned that rich countries must close all their coal-fired power plants by 2030 to have a chance of holding global warming to tolerable levels.
A growing number of nations and state governments are moving to phase out coal fired power stations. For instance:
- it has been announced by the Conservative -dominated government in the UK that Britain's last coal power plants will close by 2025
- France has announced that it will shut down all its coal-fired power plants no later than 2023
- Canada has announced plans to phase out the use of coal-fired electricity by 2030
- In early 2017, European energy utilities made a historic pledge that no new coal-fired plants will be built in the EU after 2020.
We have been failed by the federal government, who continue to back new coal mines and gas exports.
Faced with this comprehensive failure, we must all step up and do what we can to reduce our contribution to climate change. The state government has a major role to play because it is responsible for managing our electricity supply system and approving allocation of resources like coal.
The Andrews government has already shown leadership on the environment and climate change. In particular, the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) and the ban on fracking will help drive job creation and investment in our state while reducing our contribution to climate change. The ban will protect farmland and regional communities and the VRET is expected to generate almost 10,000 jobs and $2.5B in new investment, while cutting our greenhouse pollution by more than 12%.
Our chance to get it right
There are two significant state government policies that will be announced in 2017. The government will soon release a draft coal policy and has recently put amendments to the Victorian Climate Change Act through parliament.
Taken together, these two initiatives represent our chance to set our state on a pathway to a truly sustainable future.
1/ Victorian Climate Change Act
Following an Independent Review of the Climate Change Act (CCA), the government has re-written the Act. It passed through the Upper House of parliament in early 2017.
Sadly the Coalition government gutted the CCA while it was in power, removing the emissions reduction targets in the Act. As a result, our state lost five years in a decade where the global community had a rapidly closing opportunity to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The re-write of the Act is significant because of the key role a re-built CCA must play in re-shaping our economy to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.
It should provide a clear mechanism that will lead to a reduction in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. It includes enforceable emission reduction targets (ERTs), at five yearly intervals which will take Victoria to the intended net zero emissions by 2050. The key issue will be whether they are deep enough to start the transition away from coal and towards a future based on 100% renewables. Coal fired power stations currently contribute nearly half of the state’s total greenhouse pollution.
The government has now announced an interim target outlining emission reductions that will occur between 2017 and 2020. The government says it will 'seek to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 20 per cent (from 2005 levels) by the year 2020'.
While we welcome the initial target, we must note that with the closure of Hazelwood power station happening by April 2017, the bulk of this target will be met with very little action by the government. The Greens had been proposing a reduction target of 40% by 2020.
The government is expected to announce the targets for 2025 and 2030 in 2018. This means we have a window of time to demonstrate that there is widespread support for deep emission reduction targets.
Tell the Premier you want action now
The government has done some great things on climate, including the ban on fracking for gas and the renewable energy target (or VRET). Now we’re getting to the hard part: transitioning rapidly away from our current reliance on coal. Getting the targets for 2025 and 2030 right will be a real test for the government.
Why do we need deep ERTs?
- Emission reduction targets should be a mechanism which will start to drive the closure of existing coal fired power stations (it is essential we keep pressure on to ensure there is active government support for the diversification of the Latrobe Valley economy as this happens).
- The community wants to see the transition happen. Polling by ReachTel (commissioned by Friends of the Earth) shows there is strong support in the Victorian community for an ‘urgent’ transition away from coal to 100 percent renewable energy.
- Climate science tells us the transition must happen urgently. According to the latest science, there is no room left to burn further carbon if we want to have a hope of holding overall global warming to 1.5oC. We must get to zero emissions as soon as is possible.
- The government has less than two years left in its current term. The short term targets are the only ones they can guarantee they can deliver. Our state cannot afford another 4 to 6 wasted years should the Coalition come to power and continue its anti-environment agenda.
Is it possible?
Other states and similar jurisdictions have already set deep ERTs.
For instance, in California, the Climate Change Act commits the state to a reduction of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
Scotland has adopted a Climate Change Act with ERTs that have driven down greenhouse pollution. Emissions in 2014 were almost 46% lower than 1990 levels as a result of the Act and a range of renewable energy measures.
2/ the coal policy
The Victorian government is currently drafting a policy which will outline whether coal has a future in Victoria (the 'coal statement'). This is significant as it will outline the current government's attitude to previous support for experimental coal technologies (which are often held out as the 'saviour' for the coal industry as the power stations start to close, but which is based on untested and potentially unviable technology. For instance, a company called Latrobe Valley Fertilisers wants to turn gas created from brown coal into fertiliser).
It is expected that this policy will outline:
- the governments approach to new mining - should new mines or uses of coal (such as coal to gas projects) be allowed,
- its approach to existing coal mining operations in the Latrobe Valley (should there be a plan for closure),
- whether new exploration permits for coal should be allowed (there are currently a number of permits in Gippsland and western Victoria),
- what will happen with the current areas that are under coal allocation (ie, which have been set aside for future possible coal mining). Check here for extra information on the coal allocation areas, and
- whether the government should be approving or funding research and development of coal (this is relevant to both ‘clean’ coal and experimental technologies like coal-to-fuel and coal-to-fertiliser projects).
It has now been announced that the policy will not be released until early to mid 2017. This gives us more time to influence the government and make it clear that the community expects them to show leadership and formally rule out any further use of coal.
What do we want to see in the coal policy?
• rule out any further coal allocations of coal for new uses or development of coal infrastructure,
• rule out any further allocation of public funds for fossil fuel developments or research, including experimental technologies and carbon capture and storage (CCS),
• lift or cancel all existing coal allocations in the Latrobe Valley and all remaining exploration licenses for coal outside the Valley,
• have a workable and funded plan in place to diversify the economy in the Latrobe Valley and start the orderly phase-out of our oldest and dirtiest power stations.
Please support the campaign for an end to coal, a full transition for the Latrobe Valley, energy efficiency & 100% renewables.
1/ Please sign our petition to the Premier here.
2/ Write to the Minister
It would also be great if you could send a quick message to the Minister for Resources, Wade Noonan, saying that you welcome the government's intention to release the coal statement, and that the time for coal is over. Urge him to produce a policy which recognises this fact, which rules out any further allocations or use of coal, which states that there will be no government funding for experimental coal technologies, and which sets a timeframe for a funded, time bound phasing out of existing coal fired power stations.
The Hon Wade Noonan, Minister for Resources
3/ Raise the issue on social media
Use social media to tell the Premier and Resources Minister that you want to see the state government develop a staged transition and closure of coal fired power stations.
Eg on twitter: @DanielAndrewsMP @wadenoonan Its time for transition. Deep emission reduction targets, no $ for coal, no new coal #ActonClimateVIC
You can send the same message by tagging the premier and resources minister Wade Noonan on facebook.
Just cut and paste the text from our petition (available here) and modify it as you want, add your contact details, and send.
To follow what's happening with our climate campaign, please check the Act on Climate facebook page.
The campaign in Northcote
We are starting to develop a plan for ramping up community demands that the Victorian government act decisively on climate change, focused on the inner North.
Work might include: leafleting, developing local media stories, engaging new allies (eg local businesses), lobbying MPs, holding info stalls, organising creative stunts and other events.
For further info, please contact Leigh: [email protected]
Previous campaign activity:
Info session and picnic, sunday Dec 4
We held a picnic gathering in All Nations Park in Northcote on sunday December 4, to let people know what we'll be doing with our campaign in coming months.
Tell your local MP
Fiona Richardson is the Member for the state seat of Northcote. Please cut and paste the letter from our petition (available here), add your contact details and urge her, as your local member, to support a rapid transition away from our current reliance on coal.
You can email her via this address: [email protected]