Friends of the Earth response to the Victorian Budget 2021-22

MEDIA RELEASE - Thursday 20 May

Friends of the Earth response to the Victorian Budget 2021-22

The Andrews government has delivered a budget that builds on last year’s record $1.6 billion spend on climate and energy. It includes noteworthy investment in Public Transport, Electric Vehicles, and bushfire preparedness.

Friends of the Earth says the 2021-22 budget continues the work of tackling the climate crisis and that further investment is needed to ensure the government delivers its commitment to halve the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and phase out native forest logging by 2030.

The budget makes significant allocations government will that will decarbonise the transport sector and improve Public Transport accessibility, including:

* $986 million to build 25 new X’Trapolis 2.0 trains for the metropolitan network.
* $368 million for Next Generation Trams, upgrading the Southbank Tram Depot, and new maintenance facility in the north-western suburbs.
* $25 million to tackle barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using Public Transportincluding a strategy to deliver universal access for the tram network.
* $46 million to encourage the adoption of Electric Vehicles and procure 400 vehicles for the government’s fleet.

"The Andrews government’s investment will rein in emissions from the transport sectorthe second largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Victoria," said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth campaigns coordinator.

"For too long, people with disabilities have been unable to access Melbourne’s tram network. A strategy to ensure universal access is a welcome step towards addressing this long-standing barrier."

Friends of the Earth says greater investment in Public Transport infrastructure will be needed to help the Andrews government meet legislated targets to cut emissions and provide universal access to Public Transport.

"The community will be looking at upcoming budgets to invest in the Melbourne Metro 2 tunnel to boost the capacity of the rail network and measures to ensure tram stops are accessible to all," said Leigh Ewbank.

The budget also includes $384 million to enhance bushfire preparedness by providing additional equipment for first responders, upgrading fire safety infrastructure, and supporting a First-Nations Cultural Fire Strategy.

Friends of the Earth says many of the Andrews government’s allocations are forward thinking and must be welcomed, though notes that the emphasis on doing more fuel reduction is at odds with ecological advice:

"Increasing fuel reduction treatment on its own will not be able to reduce the intensity of fire seasons and could lock in long lasting ecological damage," said Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth campaigns coordinator.

"Victoria needs a full assessment of the ecological and economic benefits and costs of the current fuel reduction program."

Friends of the Earth say modernising the state budget to account for climate change is a new priority for the government:

"As it implements 'sectoral pledges' to deliver Emissions Reduction Targets over the coming decade, it will become increasingly apparent that the government must align public investment with its climate agenda," said Leigh Ewbank.

"The Victorian government needs a process to measure and track climate expenditure over time and to ensure budget allocations help efforts tackle the climate crisis, not inadvertently hinder them."

Friends of the Earth will also be looking to future budgets for investment that cements the Victorian government’s commitment to phase out native forest logging by 2030.

Leigh Ewbank, FoE Melbourne Campaigns Coordinator: [email protected], 0406 316 176