At last we have some good news to report. The country is breathing a sigh of relief following the defeat of the Morrison government, even expressing whoops of joy.
The major areas relating to the environment where we are hoping for big new effective policy change are outline below.
The new Albanese government has been thrown in the deep end with a crisis in energy supply. Gas and petrol prices have soared because of the war in Ukraine. Electricity has been in short supply because of the failure of several coal-fired power stations, the need to use expensive gas and the rise in demand in response to the cold snap. All these factors highlight the abysmal management and policies of the Morrison government.
At last we will see some real action with rapid expansion of the transmission grid to facilitate the use of renewable energy and more support for these projects. There is more positive action proposed to support the transition to use of electric vehicles. These actions will take time to be effective but 2030 is not far away!
The emissions reduction target will be improved to a 43% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. This is still viewed as inadequate by the Climate Council and the ‘teal’ candidates. Labor is still not strong enough on closing down coal mines and stopping new projects.
A review will be held of Australia’s controversial carbon offset programs, to be conducted independently of government departments and agencies. This is vital for the effectiveness of plans to reach net zero emissions – see the previous STEP Matters.
Labor has promised to set a domestic target to protect 30% of land and 30% of sea areas by 2030.
Great Barrier Reef
Labor has promised to increase funding to tackle agricultural pollution, more sustainable fishing practices and research into thermal tolerant corals. But the really meaningful solution is rapid reduction in carbon emissions
After years of the Nationals favouring big irrigators and undermining the Murray– Darling Basin Plan, the new government has a chance to restore more natural flows to the rivers of the Murray–Darling Basin, establish integrity and transparency for water management, and get the plan to revive our rivers back on track.
The review of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan will occur during this term of parliament, so there is the possibility of increasing water recovery targets towards what the science says is necessary for healthy rivers, wetlands and floodplains.
The previous environment minister, Sussan Ley, refused to release the State of the Environment Report that was finalised last December. The new Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek has indicated that it tells an ‘alarming story’ of decline, native species extinction and cultural heritage loss. She will release the report in a speech to the National Press Club on 19 July.
Labor has promised to create a federal Environmental Protection Agency to improve environmental compliance, information and analysis. We hope this agency will be genuinely independent and have real teeth.
Furthermore, there’s been a failure to address one of the most egregious failings of our system which is to evaluate cumulative impacts of projects on the environment as opposed to a license by license approach.