Community members in Victoria's south west have collected over 1000 signatures on a petition calling for an extension of a ban on onshore gas exploration.
Community opposition to drilling remains strong across regional Victoria with over 70 communities declaring themselves 'gasfield free' as part of the campaign that also banned fracking.
The announcement to scrap the temporary ban on onshore gas drilling has come just as community members from local group Protect the West in the south west of the state prepared to submit over 1,000 signatures in opposition to a lifting of the ban to the Premier’s office.
Unable to now deliver the 1000+ signatures directly to Parliament as planned, the community has joined with Friends of the Earth's Act on Climate in a final push for science based emissions reductions targets.
Using the signatures collected across the south west by local environment group Protect the West, Warrnambool resident and Friends of the Earth’s local representative Jemila Rushton gave the petition a new voice at a time when the community was preparing for increased physical distancing.
"If the government is serious about meaningful and ambitious action on emissions reduction, and keep warming below 1.5 degrees, it must rule out new fossil fuel developments. Last weeks announcement has lost the Premier trust in communities in the south west, who understand that the protection of land, water and climate are interconnected"
Protect the West member Patricia Nesbitt said that last week's announcement was a huge disappointment to the group and local community.
“Mining for fossil fuels systematically destroys the land that we are dependent upon. While we have little control over naturally occurring events, we can curb our dependence on fossil fuels. While we have the technology to adopt renewable energy systems, we need the political will to do so. Good farming practices cannot co-exist with on-shore can mining.”
Climate science makes it abundantly clear we need to keep most fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have a chance of avoiding dangerous climate change and the decision to lift a ban on gas exploration in the state is a profound lapse of judgement by the Andrews government.
But there is still time to turn this around. We know Premier Dan Andrews is busy leading Victoria's response to the COVID-19 crisis. When the time comes to make a decision on state Emissions Reduction Targets, we want it to be a quick one and the right one.