Environment groups slam budget for climate inaction
3 April 2019 at 12:23 pm
Environment spending has been labelled pointless by conservation groups in this year’s federal budget, with calculations showing for every dollar spent on the environment, $4 will be spent on subsidising pollution.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a $100 million Environment Restoration Fund during his budget speech on Tuesday, to deliver large-scale environment projects.
He said Australians had been gifted a “precious inheritance” and everyone had an important responsibility to protect the environment, and to address climate change.
The money will be awarded to community groups for large projects such as managing erosion around waterways and protecting threatened species’ habitats.
Funds will also go to a Communities Environment Program, to encourage communities through smaller grants to protect threatened plant and animal species, clean up coastlines and recycle waste.
The budget confirmed the $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package announced earlier this year, which the government said would go to practical emission reduction activities, such as working with farmers and Indigenous communities to conserve natural areas.
“Through our measures, as we have done in the past, we will beat our international emission reduction targets,” Frydenberg said.
Kelly O’Shannassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), slammed the budget announcement, and said it devalued the environment while also paving the way for public money to be used to support non-renewable energy projects.
“Coal mining companies alone will receive more than $1.5 billion a year in diesel fuel subsidies over the forward estimates,” O’Shannassy said.
According to ACF calculations, for every dollar spent on climate action, $4 would be spent on subsidising the use of fossil fuels.
“So it is no wonder that emissions are rising in this country,” O’Shannassy told Pro Bono News.
She said that since 2013-14 environment spending had been cut by nearly 40 per cent, while the overall federal budget had grown by 17 per cent, and if the trend continued, Australia would be in trouble.
“If this government is re-elected based on this budget then we’re going to be in significant trouble,” she said.
“Climate change is fuelling heatwaves, it’s fuelling bushfires, and extreme weather risking our lives, our jobs, risking the people that we love, and particularly our kids whose future is uncertain.”
Greenpeace CEO David Ritter told Pro Bono News the 2019 budget marked a “comprehensive abandonment of Australia’s future”, and that the failure to fund appropriate climate action ignored expert advice and denied the reality of climate change.
“[It] treats with contempt the lived experience of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who have already experienced climate disasters in the form of extreme heat, storms, floods, fires, fish kills and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef,” Ritter said.
He said taking drastic action on climate was a measure of responsibility by governments, and had to be reflected in spending priorities.
“The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” he said.
“We have around a decade to achieve this – and failure to do so will be catastrophic.”
Tim Beshara, The Wilderness Society federal policy director, added that his hopes of the government finally showing some maturity in dealing with the environment were not met.
“Not only is the coalition government funding for the environment at long-run lows, but they’ve wasted the last six years by not developing any concrete plans to deal with the serious issues Australia faces here,” Beshara told Pro Bono News.
He also slammed the capacity of the government to understand how off-track international environment targets really were.
“Somehow they think they can report with a straight face that they are “on track” in regards to endangered species or climate adaptation,” he said.
“No other department would be able to get away with such low levels of accountability, lack of planning or unwillingness to engage in the issues they are supposedly responsible for.”
O’Shanassy said energy now had to be focused on the upcoming federal election, and encouraged voters to look to a party that was going to look after the future of the nation.
“People need to know that at election time they really get to determine the future of this country,” she said.
“We need people to say I care about climate, I’m feeling the damage from climate change, and I’m going to do something about that.”
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