Where are the wide-ranging environment policies in the State election?

The State Election this Saturday allows us all to take a step back and assess the environmental performance of the Coalition, and the policies of the Labor and Greens parties as an option for the future of Victoria.

State Election Forum held in Seymour on November the 18th with candidates from Labor, Liberal, Nationals and Greens represented.

The packed house State Election Forum held in Seymour on November the 18th with candidates from Labor, Liberal, Nationals and Greens represented.

As an overview, one cannot escape a view that the Coalition Government under Baillieu-then-Napthine has been one that promised stability and policy retention in addressing climate change at the 2010 election, but has delivered the opposite. Indeed, this has become a State Government characterised as a COAL-ition government, hostile to renewable energy and providing a ‘back to the future’ scenario for energy production in this state. It has cost this state’s investment dearly. We have been betrayed in our trust.

The opening salvo from 2010 was ideological – the severe planning restrictions on wind farms. VC82 has effectively halted the growth of Victoria’s wind farm industry at a cost of $864 in investment, 438MW of clean energy production and the lost opportunity for 400 construction jobs. Just one wind farm has gained planning approval in 4 years, and none built. The Napthine Government has become captive to the coal industry and big energy utilities.

The Napthine Coalition Government has overseen the slashing of feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar from 60c/kWh to a mere 0.6cents/kWh. Under this Government, investment in the solar industry, and again, dispersed power production, has been savaged. Coupled with limits on new feed-in tariffs applying only to 5kW installations or larger (bigger than most households can afford to install), we have seen a “wind back the clock” on a renewable industry and ethical investment.

This is a huge policy shift from what was taken to the 2010 election, a total backflip. It has allowed the coal-fired generators to languish on old profiteering means, rather than see investment in more responsive gas-fired generation: the type required to complement the mix of big solar and wind power generation

Both the US and Chinese Presidents, in the recent G20 summit, have said we must embrace and grow renewables at the expense of coal in order to limit the extent of climate change. Not in Victoria, one of the worst performing States in the Australian economy. Ideological rejection of the renewable industry has cost Victoria $8.64 million of investment in clean energy.

At the last election the Coalition was committed to the target of a 20% reduction in emissions in the Climate Change White Paper. 4 years on, the white paper has been scrapped, and there is no commitment.

The failure to address improving the energy efficiency of Victoria’s older housing stock, the ones that most or our lower income people live in is another backflip. Simple retrofitting measures can save up to $600 on power bills each year (Clean Energy Council of Victoria), and this was promised at the last election. Good policy in 2010, but no action.

The detail of the issues and performance of the Government (and opposition policies) can be explored in depth at www.environmentvictiria.org.au

Mark Wakeham, CEO of Environment Victoria summarizes the importance of our vote in a big environment picture when he says

“Make no mistake: decisions and policies at a state level can have a big impact. Phasing out brown coal plants can address climate change, mandating energy efficiency can build sustainable communities, and fencing off our fragile rivers can safeguard our precious natural places.” (read the full letter here)

BEAM Mitchell Environment Group has been concerned over the past three years about the erosion of State laws that protect our environment and steps to wind back State programs aimed at improving the local – and world – environment. Changes to the native vegetation clearing rules, a major campaign supporting wind farms, cut-backs in local funding for staff and resources among government agencies involved in conservation are all areas where BEAM is active.

BEAM is part of a large network of groups and concerned people across Victoria who see this election as an opportunity to put the environment firmly back on the agenda, where local actions are built on a global awareness.

From a sound policy base in 2010, Victoria has reversed its environmental course amid policy back-downs and the creation of confusion in direction for our communities. In contrast, a vital renewable economy that helps build resilient regional communities who have more control over their lives and investment has real appeal as an alternative in a responsible first world economy addressing climate change. It is an important vote.

Peter Lockyer
BEAM Mitchell Environment Group

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