Federal budget 2009: good on solar, transport, foreign aid.

National environmental organisation Friends of the Earth Australia has commended the Federal Government for two key investment components of the budget: solid funding for solar power and a shift towards greater investment in public transport. Sadly, this funding is far short of what climate science tells us is required if we are to respond to the looming crisis of global warming.

Federal budget 2009: good on solar, transport, foreign aid. Business as usual everywhere else 

National environmental organisation Friends of the Earth Australia has commended the Federal Government for two key investment components of the budget: solid funding for solar power and a shift towards greater investment in public transport.

Sadly, this funding is far short of what climate science tells us is required if we are to respond to the looming crisis of global warming.

Solar investment
The government has allocated almost $1.5 billion over six years to building four solar power stations, providing capacity of around 1,000 megawatts – estimated as being enough energy to power 400,000 homes.

“This is a historic high point in terms of Commonwealth investment in solar energy, and sets us in the direction we need to go to respond to the imminent threats of climate change” said national liaison officer Cam Walker. “Sadly, this development will be off set by continued investment of $2 billion of new funds over nine years for carbon capture and storage (CCS) research. CCS remains untested at commercial scale and will take years to implement even if it is successful. In contrast, renewable technology is available now, is economically viable, and incredibly job rich. To continue to fund potential dead-end CCS technology is to waste opportunities when we have no time to spare.”

Transport
“The other good environmental news is the $4.6 billion for public transport infrastructure – the first time that a federal government has made such a significant investment in urban public transport, tipping the investment balance away from roads for the first time. Like renewables, public transport is jobs rich and low carbon compared with the alternatives, so this investment is warmly welcomed.”

Land and Water Australia
“We urge the government to reinstate funding for environmental research through keeping Land and Water Australia afloat. The loss of funding to this critical research facility will mean significant loss of capacity and knowledge to manage our landscapes in the best possible way”.

Pollution subsidies continue
“Sadly, the government has passed up yet another opportunity to end the subsidies that promote pollution – in particular the fringe benefits tax concession on company cars. We need to make it easy for people to shift on to public transport, not reward them for continuing to drive”.

Global responsibilities
“The Federal Budget 2009/10 has been framed in the context of the global recession and has a $58 billion deficit. In this context it is to be congratulated for increasing its foreign aid (ODA) commitments, in spite of the fact it didn't meet its own target in this regard”.

The total Aid Budget for 2009/10 is around $3.8 billion, up from $3.7 billion last year.  This is a real increase of 5.6%.

There remains a need for Australia to increase its ODA volume to reach the commonly accepted target of 0.7% GNI by 2015.

“We are very disappointed to see that expenditure on environment and climate change programs in 2009/10 is estimated to be $170 million, which is only 5% of total Australian ODA. Estimates of a 'fair share' of adaptation costs to help the developing world cope with climate change impacts is between $1.5 and 1.75 billion a year for Australia. Clearly we have a very long way to go in terms of meeting our obligations as such a large per capita greenhouse gas emitter”.

“We also need to consider the implications of climate change displacement – just today climate scientists warned that up to 100 million people may be displaced in our region by climate change. This reality needs to be acknowledged in future funding priorities and legislation to begin to support and resettle at least some of these people”.

Further comment: Cam Walker, 0419 338 047