With the Victorian State election just days away, we might pause to ask what is at stake when we go to vote. The Liberal opposition is attempting to make an issue of law and order. They use racist innuendo to amplify their point and create fear in the community. But at the same time, they are avoiding an issue that is critical to the future existence of human civilisation.
Climate change is projected to amplify weather extremes, cause more extreme heat waves, drought, storm and flooding events. The rate of sea level rise will accelerate during this century, displacing millions. It will be a poverty multiplier. Its impacts are expected to make the poor poorer and the total number of people living in poverty greater. All of this will produce waves of climate refugees that will dwarf our current refugee problems. Indeed, security agencies are predicting climate change to become a national security multiplier.
With the above in mind, one would expect to see climate change mitigation as a major issue in any election campaign. And whilst the state Labor government is not talking up its achievements in this area, they are substantial when compared to Liberal Party policy. The outgoing government enacted Victoria’s Climate Change Act which requires decision makers to consider climate change risk in their decision-making process. The Act provides a pathway to net zero emissions in Victoria by 2050. That government has legislated renewable energy targets of 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025. It is these targets that are driving the current boost in wind and solar power as well as energy storage installations in this state.
The Victorian Liberal Party has not released a climate policy. Its energy policy, released just a few days ago has the rather nebulous aim of establishing 500 MW of new energy generation as determined by the market and to keep the Yallourn coal-fired power station running until 2032. Mathew Guy has declared that he would tear up Victoria’s renewable energy target.
A party aiming to reduce net emissions to zero must also develop policies for emissions reduction in sectors other than energy, such as transport, land use and agriculture. Only The Greens have policies that deal substantively with emissions reduction in these sectors, which includes prioritising public transport investment and protecting native forest.
The outcome of this state election really matters — the result could extend support for building clean energy, cutting pollution and protecting nature. Or it could unravel progress the environment movement has worked so hard to achieve.
In the past few years, Victoria has started to make real progress in the shift from polluting coal to clean energy. We’ve retiree an old coal-burning power station and kicked off new wind and solar projects.
Much more needs to be done. Melbourne’s urban sprawl must be brought under control, valuable farmland must be protected, public transport improved, energy efficiency promoted, new fossil fuel infrastructure banned and more.
Community concern about climate change is on the rise. It’s an issue that all political parties will need to address. It is an existential issue that the AJDS cannot ignore.