By Phillipa Grylls
The Combet report ‒ the independent advice to the Andrews government on emissions cuts ‒ has been tabled in Parliament and kicked off the decision-making process about Victoria's first interim Emissions Reduction Targets (ERTs). Victoria has a legislated target of zero-net emissions by 2050 and the government has until 31 March 2020 to set targets for the years 2025 and 2030.
While the Combet Report recommends 'flexible' targets of 32-39% below 2005 levels by 2025 and 45-60% below 2005 levels in 2030, the real test is whether the government will commit to targets that meet the 1.5°C challenge. Here are 9 reasons that we should fight for bold and ambitious science-based targets:
1. Climate change is a local problem
We all know climate change is a global problem. But the effects of climate change are also already being felt in Victoria. In Inverloch, local scientist Aileen Vening has documented an astounding 40 metres of coastal erosion due to sea level rise since 2012. Setting high ERTs is crucial for mitigating further climate impacts in Victoria and around the world.
2. Victoria can be a climate leader in Australia
Victoria is a big emitter. We produce over double the carbon emissions per capita (18.4 tons) than the country of Belgium (8.3 tons), even though our population is almost half its size! With the federal government showing a shocking lack of concern for action on climate change, states must step up in the meantime. Victoria can be a climate leader beyond the state's boundaries and set an example for other states. Bold ERTs demonstrate to the federal government that we are not willing to accept climate inaction.
3. Make sure we're on track to Paris
The Paris Agreement calls for global action to limit global warming to 1.5°C – the uppermost level of warming we can reach if we are to avoid ecological catastrophe. Australia agreed to reduce its emissions by 26-28% of 2005 levels by 2030 as part of the Paris Agreement, but this will not even keep us below 2°C of warming. We've heard politicians at the national level who seek to block climate action say that any measure Australia takes to reduce emissions 'won't make any difference.' This unhinged logic denies the Paris Agreement's collective, global promise to all take action. If we take bold steps at the state level, we can help Australia fulfil its promise to the international community.
4. Help Protect Victoria's forests
Victoria is home to the world's most carbon-dense forests, which are threatened with ecological collapse as climate change worsens. But these forests are also a crucial piece of the puzzle in climate change mitigation; they are our most efficient and natural carbon storage techonology. The logging of Victoria's old growth forests is releasing their stored carbon into the atmosphere and decimating the landscape so it is much harder for them to grow back. Setting high ERTs will incentivise the Victorian government to transition the forestry industry out of old-growth logging and create a just transition plan for all workers.
5. More public transport
Transport is responsible for 20 percent of Victoria's emissions – and this figure is on the rise. Yet there are still new projects in the works to expand Victoria's roads. with the Victorian 2019/20 budget dedicating an exorbitant $15.8 billion to the North East Link. Ambitious ERTs will discourage investment in polluting transport options like car travel or freight via truck and encourage investment in accessible public transport powered by renewable energy.
6. Stop new fossil fuel developments
Victoria's legislation of the Climate Change Act should render any new fossil fuel project proposals out of the question. Yet Victoria's southwest coast is threatened with a new offshore gas industry, AGL Energy has plans to turn Westernport Bay into a giant gas import terminal and Victoria's Latrobe Valley is set to become a test site for producing hydrogen from brown coal. The Andrews government has already banned fracking in Victoria in response to an incredible five-year grassroots campaign. Setting ambitious ERTs will send a clear market signal that Victoria will not be the sandpit for mining companies and make approval for such projects much harder.
7. More Victorian Renewable Energy
Electricity generation is currently the most polluting sector in Victoria, pumping out over 50 percent of our total emissions. But we also have a budding renewable energy industry, its growth facilitated by the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET). Ambitious ERTs will encourage the growth of our renewables industry, which will be needed as we transition away from using fossil fuels for electricity.
8. More jobs and a healthier economy
The global economy is already in transition as the market responds to climate change impacts and solutions. High ERTs will create business certainty by indicating that Victoria is embracing climate solutions and no place for polluting, outdated technologies. To ensure communities aren't left behind in this transition, ambitious ERTs are also needed as a policy mechanism to plan ahead by creating good jobs for workers in transforming industries.
9. It's the right thing to do
Climate change is a human rights issue. As we move through this century, more people will become climate refugees due to increased extreme weather events and sea level rise.
Wealthy nations are responsible for a disproportionately large share of historical global emissions and Australia currently contributes 1.3% of global emissions, though we make up only 0.3% of the world's population. As part of a well-resourced, developed country, we need to do the heavy lift now with strong ERTs to ensure we are working toward achieving climate justice for all.
Abridged from a longer, referenced article posted at www.actonclimate.org.au/ten_reasons_to_fight_for_ambitious_erts
Published in Chain Reaction #136, August 2019. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. www.foe.org.au/chain_reaction