FoE Australia News for early 2018

Friends of the Earth Australia news from early 2018.

Published in Chain Reaction #132, April 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. www.foe.org.au/chain_reaction_132

Climate Frontlines

Wendy Flannery from Friends of the Earth's Climate Frontlines campaign reports:

From 4-8 December 2017, following the UNFCCC COP23 session in Bonn, Germany, CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation held an international conference in Fiji. With all the preparatory work in the Pacific for COP23, it was inevitable that a strong focus of the CIVICUS gathering was vulnerability to climate change, including forced migration.

With the UN scheduled to launch a Global Compact for Migration in September 2018, the CIVICUS assembly issued a strong declaration urging that climate change related displacement and migration be given due recognition in the upcoming Compact. The Declaration on Climate Induced Displacement is posted at www.civicus.org

Climate displacement forum: The Pacific Islands Council of Queensland and Friends of the Earth Brisbane Climate Frontlines are partnering to hold a forum in Brisbane from 25‒27 May, focusing on Pacific climate change.

The organisers aim to:

  • Raise awareness among Pacific diaspora communities of the impacts of climate change in general and of its impacts on people in the Pacific Islands region
  • Highlight the particular concerns of communities in the Torres Strait Islands
  • Ensure that the three levels of government and relevant agencies and community organisations are aware of implications for people in the Pacific and for the Pacific diaspora communities in Australia
  • Empower representatives of the diaspora communities to respond to the challenges, including advocating with government.

Well-known and highly-regarded presenters both from the Pacific and locally are being invited. Pacific Islander communities in Queensland are being encouraged to gather stories from relatives and friends in Pacific Island countries in advance for online sharing. A representative of one of the most affected communities in the Torres Strait will also be invited.

Wendy Flannery, Climate Frontlines, FoE Brisbane

0439 771 692, wendy.flannery@foe.org.au

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Benefits of new Kiata wind farm shows it's time for Turnbull to #RestoreTheRET

Friends of the Earth (FoE) campaigners were pleased to attend the official opening of the Kiata wind farm, west of Horsham in Victoria, on January 24.

The project is renewable energy success story that highlights the need for the Turnbull government to hit the reset button on energy policy. The completion of the new wind farm comes amid reports the national Renewable Energy Target will be met two years ahead of schedule. This surprising result shows it's time for PM Turnbull to address his government's energy policy failures by restoring the RET.

"The Kiata wind farm was built thanks to Victoria's Renewable Energy Target (VRET) and is the type of policy the Turnbull government should be emulating," said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth's renewable energy spokesperson.

"There's a reason five states and territories around the country have adopted renewable energy targets. They work. The Turnbull government can avoid the pitfalls of policy adventurism like the National Energy Guarantee by restoring the Renewable Energy Target."

In 2014 the Abbott government slashed the RET by 20%, a decision that saw 2,500 people lose their jobs and investment to collapse by 90%. Now that investment has finally rebounded it's time to capitalise on the momentum behind wind and solar power.

Windlab's nine-turbine Kiata Wind Farm was built using wind turbines manufactured by Keppel Prince in Portland and will provide enough clean electricity to power 23,000 homes.

FoE's Act on Climate spokesperson Leigh Ewbank said the Kiata wind farm will help the Victoria meet state climate change laws. "The Wimmera community can be proud of its role helping to power Victoria and tackle climate change. The Kiata wind farm will contribute towards Victoria's legislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050."

Please sign and share the Petition to #RestoreTheRET

Fighting to protect forests in Western Australia

Richard Wittenoom writes that conflicts over forests in Western Australia have become more intense and complex in recent times. Richard is President of Bridgetown Greenbushes Friends of the Forest (BGFF) and Friends of the Earth WA (FoE WA). BGFF is a member of WA's peak forest conservation body, the WA Forest Alliance (WAFA), and Richard represents BGFF / FoE WA on the WAFA Executive Committee.

WAFA is now fighting on several fronts. It is taking positive action in its 'Forests for Life' campaign, which aims to replace native forest logging with plantation timber and agroforestry, allowing the forests to be preserved for a range of productive and environmentally sound activities.

When the ALP ended the eight-year term of the Barnett government a year ago, WAFA was confident that commitments of support for preservation of old growth and High Conservation Value forests would be implemented. In fact the same people who have been advising Ministers for the past 15 years are still giving the same advice to the present Labor Ministers and this is reflected in replies received to present approaches.

A measure of the level of community support for the forests is shown by the fact that recently a petition of 15,500 signatures calling on the government to keep its election promises was presented on the steps of Parliament House.

On the other hand, WAFA is fighting to overturn the shock certification of the Forest Products Commission's (FPC) karri forest management granted by the leading international forest certification body, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Since 1995 BGFF/FOE WA has provided an Australian base for Dr Leonie van der Maesen, a Dutch geographer who has been studying the WA forests since the 1980s. Leonie represents FoE WA, and FoE Netherlands, on the International Chapter of the FSC. Leonie, 91 years young, is Patron and an Honorary Life Member of BGFF/FOE WA.

Leonie has been actively supporting the WAFA campaign against the unwarranted certification of the FPC's karri forest management. "There is no way the FSC should have granted this certification," she said. "Now we have to push to have it withdrawn."

Jess Beckerling, Convenor of WAFA, has been fighting doggedly against the certification since it was first proposed.

FoE WA has joined WAFA in objecting to the certification on two main grounds: FPC's logging of old growth karri in contravention of FSC criteria, and the conversion of karri forest into plantations of karri seedlings, again against FSC criteria.

Another battle looks like opening up. The FPC is now evaluating 19 expressions of interest for a major timber processing facility that would buy low-grade logs for uses such as biomass. This would open up possibilities for extensive thinning of the Jarrah forests and would also allow resumption of logging of marri, up to 30,000 tonnes per year.

The objective of the FPC is to increase forest logging to the maximum permitted under the discredited Forest Management Plan, prepared under the Coalition Government. If established, the timber processing facility would allow the FPC to sell large quantities of low-grade timber products to make up for the fact that sawlogs are getting increasingly difficult to find and tonnages have been dropping for years.

The Jarrah forest in particular has not responded as was expected when intensive logging practices were introduced after 1986. The result has been that there are now enormous areas of intensively logged forest and regrowth that is either stunted coppice or single-size, dense 'locked-up' Jarrah stands.

BGFF has in its area of interest the oldest example of modern intensive logging, carried out in Warrup 05 in 1981-83 for a salinity trial. In this about 68% of trees were logged from the overall area of the trial. Thirty-five years after the event, the area will probably never produce a sawlog.

A solution offered by supporters of the proposed major timber processing facility is that a major program of thinning would remove competition and allow retained trees in existing single-age stands to grow on. There is strong opposition to this from within WAFA, one reason being that the inevitable use of heavy machinery during commercial thinning operations would leave the ground compacted for 50 years or more. Another reason is that logging introduces and spreads Phytophthora dieback. It would also leave the way open for 'open slather' logging.

As if all this is not enough, WAFA is now faced with the mid-term review of the current Forest Management Plan and, shortly after, the expiry of WA's Regional Forest Agreement.

BGFF believes that the planned logging of non-reserved areas of Jarrah on a 100-year cycle is leading to a juvenilised forest unable to support development of nesting hollows in mature trees. This requires a tree aged at least 120 years. There is no question that the days of logging of native forests will soon be gone. However in the remaining years of mining the forest, the preservation of the best of what's left should be a priority. There is so little good forest left it is essential that we preserve all of it.

Forests for Life

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New legislation poses 'existential threat to civil society in Australia'

The federal government has been attacking green groups since 2015 when the Register of Environmental Organisations Inquiry was launched. The attacks aim to break – or at least greatly reduce ‒ the power of green groups. Various attempts to limit our ability to work effectively to protect the environment have failed. So they're giving it one last go before the federal election.

New proposed legislation ‒ the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, commonly called the 'foreign donations Bill ‒ is the latest front in this attack on advocacy by civil society groups.

The proposed reform to the Commonwealth Electoral Act has been dressed up as a national security initiative. There are three connected pieces of legislation, all of which will negatively impact on the activity of green groups. The Bill redefines non-partisan, independent, issues-based advocacy as political campaigning and in doing so subjects Australian charities to many of the restrictions in the Electoral Act designed and intended for political parties. Immediately, many groups will face a prohibition on receiving international philanthropic funding, plus unwieldy and potentially unworkable requirements to prove other donations received are not from international sources.

If successful, this Bill will greatly limit the funds that green groups can access and tie us down in draconian levels of red tape (ironic coming from a government that claims it wants to reduce administrative burdens).

In its current form, the Bill poses an existential threat to advocacy in Australia. A healthy society requires strong independent voices. The Bill would take Australia backwards to a time where only government and big business have a strong voice in forming public policy. It must be resisted. Things are moving quickly and by the time Chain Reaction is printed, the legislation will have been re-tabled in parliament. Please check www.foe.org.au for updates and details on how you can help us stop these attacks.

Kuark forest protected

In a great development, Victoria has seen the first significant forest protection under the current government. In March, the Andrews government announced that some old growth forests in East Gippsland's Kuark forest will be protected. The Kuark has been the focus of a long campaign, driven by FoE affiliate Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO).

GECO spokesperson Ed Hill responded to the announcement by saying: "This is a good step in the right direction and we look forward to working with the government to ensure the Kuark forest is formally incorporated into the Errinundra National Park along with other forest areas of high environmental value, within this term of government."

The state and federal governments have extended the contentious Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) for another two years today after the East Gippsland and Central Highlands agreements reached their used by date. The RFAs provide the native forest logging industry with an exemption from national environment law and have been heavily criticised by environment groups since they were signed in the late 1990s.

"The two-year extension of the Regional Forest Agreements has extended the logging industry's legal exemption from national environment law, whilst some protection of Kuark forest is welcomed, overall Victoria's forests and wildlife deserve more. Habitat for species like the nationally threatened Greater Glider and Leadbeater's Possum will continue to be logged with legal impunity and the special treatment given to the logging industry will continue," said Ed Hill.

Full response here

State election on the horizon in Victoria

FoE has helped achieve some fantastic outcomes in Victoria over the past half-decade, including the permanent ban on fracking in the state, the moratorium on drilling for conventional gas, and the creation of the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET). With a state election on the horizon, and an Opposition which is saying it will lift the moratorium and gut the VRET, we need to defend these important wins.

FoE is working hard to raise environmental issues in the build-up to the November election, engaging with all political parties, and campaigning on the ground across metro and regional communities to see strong state government action on key issues including climate change and energy policy, transport infrastructure, forests and water.

For full details on our policy agenda, to support our work or get involved, please check this page.

 

Get on board

FoE Melbourne's sustainable cities campaign has launched Get on Board: a collaborative, community-built vision of the sustainable transport infrastructure that Melbourne needs.

Previous governments have failed to plan for Melbourne's growth and create a workable public transport system to relieve traffic congestion. And it's only going to get worse.

Community members across Melbourne are stepping up to address the failure. Bringing together community groups, transport academics, planners, and small businesses to create a plan that works for everyone.

We're calling on everyone to #GetOnBoard with the Community Powered Transport Plan. The core elements of the plan are:

  • A better train network with Melbourne Metro 2
  • Getting freight off roads
  • Active travel with more bikes, walking and green space
  • A more connected public transport system through bus, tram and light rail network improvements
  • Made in Victoria with local jobs

For more information please check the website 

A world class reserve system for the people of Melbourne

A cornerstone of FoE's policy work in Victoria is the proposal to 'future proof' Melbourne against continual growth and sprawl. Melbourne keeps growing and is becoming ever more congested and crowded, and will soon pass Sydney as the largest city in Australia. If we want to keep our 'liveable city' tag we need to keep improving public transport and services, especially in fringe areas, while ensuring there is sensible and sensitive infill and increased density along public transport routes and key development nodes.

It is also essential that we protect remaining undeveloped land around the city's fringes and create breathing space for the ever-growing population of Melbourne. Time to do this is running out as the city spreads.

In addition to our sustainable cities #GetOnBoard campaign, we are calling for the creation of new parks from the Western Grasslands reserve in the west to the Great Forest National Park in the east.

Check here for full details

War and the Environment

Friends of the Earth has just launched a national project on War and the Environment. Using a social and environmental justice framework, the project will map, respond to and challenge war and the ongoing militarisation of people and places. 

To get involved, contact Robin at robintaubenfeld@hotmail.com or 04 1111 8737. 

Far North Queensland: protecting the Myola Valley is "vital"

FoE Far North Queensland is involved in a campaign to find a suitable conservation buyer for the controversial 'Barnwell Estate', in the event the Macao-based developer loses interest and wishes to on-sell the rural-zoned land at a fair price.

Several letters of support have been received from relevant stakeholders, backing the principle of acquiring land for conservation in the biodiverse Myola Valley. The support letter from James Cook University's Distinguished Research Professor Bill Laurance is of key interest. Professor Laurance, who works as a conservation biologist in native and damaged forests all over the tropical world, puts the region in global context: "I can say with complete confidence that the Wet Tropics region is among the most ancient, most biologically unique, and most small and imperilled ecosystems on the planet. It literally leaps off the global map as a hotspot of vital conservation importance."

"In this region, most (70%) of the lowland forests have already been destroyed. Much of the upland forests on the Atherton Tablelands and Windsor Tableland have also been cleared and fragmented. Without doubt, the best possible outcome for this land parcel is to support the Kuranda community's desire to restore the land to its natural state, and for it to be held in trust for nature conservation in perpetuity."

Sarah Isaacs, a campaigner with Far North Queensland, said: "Further fragmentation of this region could easily split the Wet Tropics Bioregion into two distinct regions with no effective wildlife corridor between the two. This would impact negatively and probably disastrously on the wildlife- especially the iconic and endangered Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) and the recently discovered and IUCN listed critically endangered Kuranda Tree Frog (Litoria myola)."

The full text of Prof. Laurance's letter is posted here

See also foefnq.org.au

Adani still angling for government funding support

They're still at it. Adani is talking to the Australian Government's Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC), which is already planning to finance companies involved in the Carmichael mega coal mine's supply chain.

When Adani and Aurizon were seeking loans from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility last year, EFIC was brought in to help with the projects' assessments. So no doubt EFIC is well aware of how environmentally and socially unacceptable Adani's mega coal mine is. 

Thanks to incredible pushback from the community, those NAIF loans are now off the table. But with Adani increasingly desperate to find funds, EFIC provides another opportunity to channel public money to the Carmichael coal mine indirectly. 

Take action! Tell EFIC that the Adani Carmichael coal mine is against the public interest and should not receive a cent of public money! Please visit www.marketforces.org.au/efic

FoE affiliate Market Forces has been tracking which companies are in and out of the Adani Carmichael coal project.

River Country Campaign

Megan Williams from FoE's River Country Campaign writes:

Last year was a big year for the Murray Darling. The Darling ran dry, ABC's Four Corners exposed upstream water theft thrusting our river into the national spotlight and bickering over the Murray Darling Basin Plan threatened to cut back the amount water that is returned to the environment. With a Victorian State Election and a key decision about the fate of the Murray Darling Basin Plan pending for February, 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger.

That's why I've come on board to help the campaign hit the ground running. I'm an environmental scientist and have been part of FoE for almost four years. As a team member on the Yes 2 Renewables Campaign, I worked with community members across the state to call for Victoria to set its own Renewable Energy Target. I'm pleased to say last year the State legislated a target of 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025!

Every good campaign has the community's voice at heart. Now I'm asking questions about the environmental watering program in Nyah-Vinifera, to understand how water for the environment is managed in Victoria. At a time when the water allocation for the environment is under threat, we want to tell the good news stories about the benefits of cultural and environmental flows. I want to know that enough water is reaching the forest for it to thrive, and hold the government to account to make sure that happens across the board.

This year we want to send a message that healthy rivers are essential for healthy communities. We are building the community power needed for Lisa Neville, Victorian Minister for Water, to stand up and protect our rivers and secure water to give back to the environment.

Here are three ways you can help our campaign:

‒ Like our Facebook Page

‒ If you have a tip email me at megan.williams@foe.org.au

Chip in to help us reach our goals