By Kate Wattchow, Leigh Ewbank and Alex Wylde
The federal Coalition government's failure to act on climate change is well known. Recently released data shows national emissions are increasing and that Australia will fail to meet emissions cuts it pledged under the Paris Agreement.
Regressive political forces at the national level have seen states and territories step up and lead on climate change. But they'll have to make the most of existing initiatives to maintain the momentum.
The Andrews government strengthened the Victorian Climate Change Act in 2017 after winning the support of the Greens and crossbenchers. The Act legislates a target of zero net emissions by 2050 and requires governments to set interim Emissions Reduction Targets every five years.
The Andrews government committed to set the first two Emissions Reduction Targets for 2025 and 2030 this year. An independent panel has been assembled to advise the government on targets to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions.
Friends of the Earth's Act on Climate collective understands that policy processes can be complicated. It can be difficult to figure out how we can take part in these processes. Because of this, we have put together this FAQ to explain the process.
What are Victoria's current greenhouse gas emissions?
In 2015, Victoria emitted approximately 120 megatonnes (Mt) CO2-equivalent, more than Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT combined. Greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane are generated from activities such as burning fossil fuels, agricultural practices, and land clearing.
What are Emissions Reduction Targets?
Emissions Reduction Targets, or ERTs, refer to levels of emissions that a government commits to reduce over a certain time period. For example, if a state with annual emissions of 120 Mt CO2-equivalent each year adopted a target of 50% reductions by 2030, it would be required to cut emissions each year to reach 60 Mt CO2 per year by 2030.
ERTs provide transparency and accountability. They must be incorporated into government policy making, send a signal to the business sector about where the state is heading, and provide a way for community members to hold the government to account for their decisions.
What are Victoria's Emissions Reduction Targets?
Victoria has a binding target of zero net emissions by the year 2050. As a binding target the government is legally required to achieve it by or before the set date. In order to reach the 2050 target the government is required to set interim targets every five years.
The Andrews government has set a voluntary target of a 15-20% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2020.
An independent panel is now undertaking research to advise the government on targets for 2025 and 2030. Unlike the 2020 target, these targets will be legally binding.
What is the Independent Panel?
The independent panel on ERTs is comprised of three people with expertise in climate change science, policy, and the electricity sector. The panel will be writing and releasing an issues paper regarding the Emissions Reduction Targets, taking submissions from the public, and holding stakeholder sessions before making final recommendations to the government.
Who is on the Panel?
Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D'ambrosio, appointed Greg Combet, Dr Penny Whetton and Dr Lorraine Stephenson to the panel.
Greg Combet is well known as Minister for Climate Change in the Gillard Government. Combet had carriage of the Gillard government's Clean Energy Plan which included a national price on pollution as well as the establishment of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Prior to public office, Greg Combet was secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Dr Penny Whetton is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne's School of Earth Sciences and CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere team. Dr Whetton is also a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Nobel-prize winning fourth assessment report.
Dr Lorraine Stephenson has a long history in the corporate sector, with a focus on the energy sector. Stephenson's current role includes analysing risk mitigation and creating opportunities in the context of business responses to climate change. Dr Stephenson is a member of the Liberal New South Wales government's Climate Change Council, and previously worked for Origin Energy.
What is the Inquiry timeline?
The independent panel has a lot of work to do in a short time-frame. It is expected to release an issues paper, call for public submissions, and hold stakeholder sessions before giving its final recommendations to the Victorian government in June 2018.
How can you get involved?
The main way for community members who are concerned about climate change to have input into the process will be through the public submissions phase. Community organisations, sustainability groups, businesses, and community members will be able to send a submission to the panel to express support for ambitious and science-based Emissions Reduction Targets.
A high level of engagement from the community will send a signal to the panel and the government that there is strong community support for ambition when it comes to tackling climate change.
Friends of the Earth's Act on Climate collective are keeping a watching brief on the Emissions Reduction Target process and stand ready to respond. To receive action alerts and an invitation to make a submission go to www.actonclimate.org.au/ambitious_targets
Published in Chain Reaction #132, April 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia.