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Friends of the Earth's Climate & Environment Policy Platform



Prepared by Friends of the Earth Melbourne campaigners - 26 November 2021


Victoria is facing a decade of transition. The state has committed to halve its greenhouse gas emissions and deliver 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 to tackle the global climate crisis.


The rollout of solar, wind, and energy storage technology continues to create jobs and bring new, cheap power to the grid while disrupting fossil fuel incumbents. Aging coal-burning power stations are becoming increasingly uncompetitive and unreliabletheir owners are looking for pathways to closure. 

The greenhouse gas footprint of the transport sectorwhich is now the state’s second largest and fastest growing source of emissionswill come to equal that of the electricity system. Public Transport patronage will rebound once the pandemic subsides and electric vehicles will disrupt the status quo. 

The logging of native forests will cease by the end of the decade, with a major phase down in 2024an outcome that will boost the state’s capacity to draw carbon emissions out of the atmosphere while providing a lifeline for threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems. 

Will these transitions be managed and deliver good outcomes for community, environment, and climate, or will they be unmanaged and lead to unjust outcomes?

State elections provide a moment for political parties to present ideas for how to tackle the big challenges facing Victoria. They are an opportunity to steer the state towards a better future.

Polling consistently shows that voters across all major parties want to see greater leadership on climate and environment. This sentiment comes as no surprise given that events such as the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 have shown that climate impacts are already impacting local landscapes, communities, and economies. This sentiment will deepen as climate impacts become more frequent in coming years.

Government responses to the climate and biodiversity crises do not occur in a vacuum. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the state, national, and global economies. Clean technologies continue to come down the cost curve. Major trading partners the United States and United Kingdom have increased their commitments to tackle climate change. They are using ambitious climate and energy targets to roll out clean technologies, create jobs, revive manufacturing, and create new industries. 

The state election on 26 November, 2022, is an opportunity for all parties to demonstrate how they will manage the transition in a way that will lead to economic opportunities, job creation, and create a pathway for Victoria to contribute towards global efforts to achieve a safe climate and avoid catastrophic climate impacts. 

While some of the foundation stones for a just transition are in place, Friends of the Earth present the following policy ideas to secure a bright future for the state.

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CLIMATE JUSTICE, TRANSPORT, AND ENERGY


CLIMATE:


In response to intensifying climate impacts, the United States and United Kingdom have increased their commitments to cut emissions this decade and are setting aggressive targets to roll out solar power, offshore wind, energy storage, and electric vehicles.

Will Victoria increase its commitment and capture the economic benefits that stem from tackling the climate crisis?

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to:

  • The Victorian Climate Change Act (2017)the framework legislation guiding our state’s response to climate change.
  • Swift delivery of the state’s interim Emissions Reduction Targets of 28-33 percent by 2025 and 45-50 percent by 2030.
  • Increase Victoria’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Target and ensure future interim targets are aligned with the best available science and deliver the cuts needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
  • Match the United States-European Union’s pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent (below 2020 levels) this decade. 
  • Release a Climate Impact Statement with the budget papers to outline expenditure on direct mitigation (i.e: renewable energy); indirect mitigation (i.e: public transport infrastructure); adaptation (i.e: installing sea walls/groynes); and disaster response (i.e: firefighting and recovery). The impact statement would include a ‘social cost of carbon’ to estimate the damages caused by each tonne of greenhouse gas in dollar terms (a tool now used in the United States and European Union). This analysis will assist the government in meeting its commitment to the Climate Change Act 2017. It will bring greater transparency to climate-related expenditure and allow departments, key stakeholders, and the community to track trends over time.
  • Establish a $100 million Victorian Climate Change Action Fund (VCCAF) to retrofit public libraries, schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses, and sporting clubs to become Climate Emergency Refuge Centres in times of crisis. This would involve installing rooftop solar, battery storage, air-conditioners, appropriate air filtration (in light of the pandemic) and other energy efficient equipment at those sites. Communities most at risk from bushfires and heat waves would be prioritised in the rollout.
  • Undertake a special report on climate impacts on Victoria’s coastline. This investigation would identify the infrastructure and ecosystems at risk of damage in the short, medium, and long term. It would also present decadal sea level rise forecasts (from 2030 out to 2100). This study would also present decadal sea level rise forecasts (from 2030 out to 2100) and provide a body of research that can be used to educate the public and inform policymakers.
  • A commitment to monitor sites vulnerable to rising sea levels and intensifying storm surges and establish a photographic record of coastal change for researchers, policymakers, advocates, and the community.



TRANSPORT:

The transport sector is Victoria's second largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse emissions in Victoria. Without strong policy support for public transport, active transport, and electric buses (and other electric modes of transport), the sector’s contribution to climate change will match that of the electricity sector this decade.

Investment in the Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel, level-crossing removal program, and new train and tram rolling stock will put downward pressure on emissions growth, yet there are key barriers preventing the community from prioritising zero- and low-carbon transport options. Melbourne’s bus network is fragmented, infrequent, and relies on polluting diesel vehicles, and just 15 percent of the tram network is accessible for people with disabilities.

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to:

  • Delivering Better Buses for Victoria by:
    • Implementing 10-minute bus services in the high-growth local government areas of Wyndham, Brimbank, and Hobson’s Bay by 2025, with the aim of a statewide roll out by 2030.
    • Transition the bus fleet to electric vehicles in high-growth local government areas in Wyndham, Brimbank, and Hobson’s Bay by 2025, with a statewide transition by 2030.
    • Procure Victorian-made electric buses to ensure our state captures the jobs and economic benefits of the roll out. As many Australian-made vehicles should be procured as possible in this initiative.
    • Upgrade the state’s 25 worst bus connections at train stations, tram stops, and other high-frequency locations (e.g: health and education precincts) by 2025. (Friends of the Earth are undertaking a community surveying process to identify the 25-worst connection points).

  • Improve Accessibility and Boost Capacity by:
    • Implementing the Public Transport Accessibility Strategy to provide universal access to public transport for people with disabilities within the next term of government.
    • Investing in a business case for the Melbourne Metro 2 tunnel to link the Werribee and Mernda lines, provide access to the Fisherman’s Bend Precinct, and boost the capacity of the rail network.
    • Commencing construction of the Melbourne Metro 2 tunnel once the Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel is completed in 2025.

  • Investing in Cycling and Active Transport by:
    • Converting all new pop-up bike lanes in the inner city council areas of Maribyrnong, Moonee Valley, Moreland, Melbourne, Darebin, Yarra, Stonnington and Port Phillip to permanent bike lanes by 2025.
    • Doubling cycling and active transport infrastructure across the state by 2030 - including well connected walking and bike paths in suburban Melbourne and regional Victoria.



ENERGY:

With a rich solar and wind resource and proactive policies in place, Victoria’s renewable energy rollout is creating thousands of jobs, attracting investment to the state, and delivering cheaper power prices and emissions cuts.

Continuing this trend is essential to revitalise regional economies, boost the manufacturing sector, and the state’s ability to meet its climate goals.

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to:

  • The Victorian Renewable Energy (Jobs & Investment) Act (2017).
  • Swift delivery of existing Victorian Renewable Energy Targets of 40 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.
  • Adopting a Victorian Renewable Energy Target of 100 percent by 2030. 
  • Make Victoria the national leader in offshore wind by securing the first operating project. This can be accomplished by developing an industry plan for offshore wind and establishing a "carve out" for the technology in the Victorian Renewable Energy Target.
  • Establishing a Community Energy Target of 100MW by 2025. This target can be delivered with a ‘Community Energy Incentive’, funding for Community Power Hubs out to 2025, and development grants for midscale projects in the range of 1-10MW. 
  • Make all new housing all-electric and encourage the retro-fitting of all-electric appliances in existing homes (i.e: induction cooktops, heatpumps, etc).
  • Install stationary batteries at all suburban substations to “soak up” excess solar generation during the day for use during the evening peak. This is more efficient than expecting individual solar households to do so and avoids curtailing of solar from households. This also takes the load off the transmission infrastructure and stabilises the grid.

 

COAL:

Victoria’s coal-burning power plants are becoming increasingly unreliable and expensive to operate. Engie’s swift closure of the Hazelwood coal power plant disrupted the community and demonstrated the need for economic diversification in the region. 

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to:

  • A just transition to coordinate closure of coal fired power stations and ensure the Latrobe Valley and wider Gippsland region are supported with access to sustainable job opportunities, community and economic development.
  • Continue funding for the Latrobe Valley Authority to diversify the region’s economy and build resilience to coal power plant closures. 
  • Support projects in the Latrobe Valley that help diversify energy generation (e.g. the Delburn Wind Farm).



GAS:


Photo: John CarneyCommunity opposition to fossil gas development is re-emerging in the wake of the decision to lift the moratorium on onshore conventional gas development from 1 July 2021 and recent approvals of offshore gas exploration in Victoria’s coastal waters.

The following recommendations emerged from a joint statement developed by a network of groups seeking to get Victoria off gas.

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to:

  • The right of Traditional Custodians to free, prior and informed consent regarding gas exploration and development on Country and Sea Country.
  • Accept the evidence that Victoria can rapidly move away from gas while maintaining reliable and affordable energy supply to households and businesses.
  • Rule out opening new acreages for gas exploration and development, to remain consistent with the International Energy Agency’s Roadmap in order to meet net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Adopt policies that use remaining supply in active gas wells in the Bass Strait prudently, and end exports to Queensland, so that gas imports are not needed. The government should establish gas reserves, manage storage, and demand-response interventions to prevent shortfall as we move away from gas to clean technologies.
  • Reject proposals for new gas infrastructure such as import terminals and pipeline upgrades. Community safety and international LNG safety industry best practice regulations must take precedence when considering gas infrastructure developments  at all times.
  • Rule out adding hydrogen in the pipelines for domestic and commercial use. If hydrogen is to be used for other purposes such as industry or heavy transport it must only be hydrogen generated entirely by renewable energy.
  • Commit to eliminating gas as soon as possible and adopt a minimum target to halve Victorian gas use by 2030. 
  • Electrify everything that can be electrified to cut emissions, ensure safe and livable homes, save households money, and create jobs and competitive industries. 
  • Remove outdated regulations that force new homes to connect to the gas network and cease gas connections to new housing developments immediately.
  • Work with local councils to mandate that new homes are all-electric.
  • Increase education for the community, tradespeople, and industry regarding electrifying homes and improving energy efficiency.
  • Facilitate a rapid reduction in domestic and commercial gas use, especially for the top 20 percent of household users, so that peak demand in winter is no higher than 1,000 terajoules per day.
  • Facilitate a rapid reduction in industrial gas use by requiring industry-wide participation in the Victorian Energy Upgrade program and supporting the adoption of new clean technologies and processes (such as heat pumps).
  • Set in motion immediate preparation for a well planned and amply resourced transition of industry away from gas while ensuring justice for workers.
  • Make eliminating gas a key priority of Victoria’s next Climate Change Strategy, Emissions Reduction Target setting processes, Planning Scheme amendments, planning decisions, and state budget. 



NUCLEAR:

Friends of the Earth notes an upsurge in pro-nuclear advocacy and claims that nuclear energy is a ‘solution’ to combat climate change. 

A Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry concluded in a November 2020 report that nuclear power “is significantly more expensive than other forms of power generation,” that “without subsidisation a nuclear power industry will remain economically unviable in Australia,” and that those promoting nuclear power “have not presented any argument, data or proof in support of their position that cannot be nullified by those arguing against.”

In 2019, a broad coalition of faith, union, environmental, Aboriginal, and public health groups, representing millions of Australians, declared nuclear power has no role in Australia’s energy future and is a dangerous distraction from the pressing climate challenges. Their united statement demonstrates widespread community opposition to nuclear power. 

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to: 

  • Accept the findings of the Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into nuclear prohibition.
  • Affirm an unequivocal commitment to retain the state’s long-standing nuclear ban.

NATURE, WILDLIFE, AND BIODIVERSITY


FOREST PROTECTION:


The logging of native forests in Victoria will cease by the end of the decade with a major phase down after 2024. This outcome will boost the state’s capacity to draw carbon emissions out of the atmosphere while providing a lifeline for threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems.

Yet the aftermath of the Black Summer bushfires and intensifying climate impacts are threatening the collapse of forest ecosystems and the species that depend on them for their survival. 

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to:

  • Bring forward the transition out of native forest logging to 2024.
  • A Transition Plan to ensure that workers, communities, and regions have the economic support needed to gain alternative, ecologically sound employment. Redeploying forestry workers into Firefighting and land management are important starting points for this transition. 
  • Expand the brief of the Latrobe Valley Authority to explicitly include assisting workers currently employed in the forestry sector and roll out similar support programs in other affected areas of the state, such as the Central Highlands.
  • Prioritise, fully support, and make way for First Nations initiatives for caring for Country when determining the future management of forests. For example,  cultural cool burning for bushfire prevention and regeneration, fire programs for weed management, flooding for wetland and waterway restoration, etc.
  • Genuinely engage with and finally respond to the Sovereign People For Country’s Sovereigns on Forest Statement 2019. An end to the logging of Country and the return of public forest to First Nations people for their cultural and economic benefit should be a necessary part of the Treaty process.
  • Spending a minimum of 1 percent of the state budget each year to fund the work of Parks Victoria in managing our parks and reserves, in addition to funds and support for First Nations management.
  • Base future forest management decisions on the robust research of experts and scientists studying these ecosystems.
  • Government should allocate resources for large-scale ecosystem restoration and reforestation programs on public and private lands across Victoria to combat the climate and biodiversity crises and create secure, dignified work in regional areas.
  • Support ecologically sound agroforestry initiatives to source timber and non timber sources of fibre in affected regions.

WILDLIFE PROTECTION:

Victoria’s endangered and threatened species are facing unprecedented pressure from habitat destruction and intensifying climate impacts. Proactive steps are needed from the state government to give important species the best chance of survival.

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to: 

  • Revisiting the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 to include provisions for greater protection of populations of animals within a species that are genetically significant, e.g: the Strzelecki Koala.
  • Adopting policies that protect and treat koala populations in South Gippsland and the Strzelecki Ranges as a separate management unit, in relation to translocated koala populations elsewhere in Victoria. This also needs to be adopted in a new Victorian Koala Management Plan.
  • Advocating for the listing of the Strzelecki/South Gippsland koala under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
  • Stronger, enriched, and reflective database within the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas mapping a clearer picture of Victoria's flora and fauna species. Greater integrity is needed within the VBA as this resource often guides decision-making bodies. There should be a priority and greater emphasis on threatened and endangered species.

BUSHFIRE RESPONSE:

The climate-fuelled bushfires of 2019-20 tested Victoria’s ability to defend communities and the places we love from catastrophic fires. Governments must ramp up firefighting capacity to match the growing risk that comes with a hotter planet.

Friends of the Earth calls for all political parties to commit to:

  • Provide sufficient funding for the state’s firefighting capacity (via Forest Fire Management Victoria) to ensure all fire sensitive vegetation communities - rainforest, peatland, snow gums and alpine ash, and mountain ash communities can be protected from wildfire.
  • Carry out an assessment of fire-sensitive communities as outlined above to determine whether specific intervention is required to avoid ecological collapse of the communities, as has been done in the case of the alpine ash aerial seeding program.
  • Back the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster recommendation that the federal government establish a publicly owned air fleet to fight fires.


COMMUNITY WELLBEING


ECONOMY:


There is a critical need for governments to support communities as we confront challenges of economic transition, recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate upheaval. The time has come for governments to take new approaches to maintain peoples’ dignity and wellbeing in a time of instability, keep Victorians above the poverty line, and remove political and practical barriers to transitioning.

Friends of the Earth call for all political parties to commit to:

  • Design and roll out a guaranteed Universal Basic Income scheme to materially assist all Victorians.

 

TAKE ACTION

  • Let us know what you think about this policy platform... Are there key policies you would like us to add?... Email your ideas and feedback to campaigns coordinator, Leigh Ewbank: [email protected]
  • Sign up to our monthly email newsletter for campaign updates and events. 
  • Volunteer with a Friends of the Earth campaign collective that matches your skills and interests.
  • Become a Friends of the Earth Melbourne member to keep the grassroots network strong. 
  • Organise with us and champion your own grassroots campaign.

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