Ministers in lockdown ahead of clean air decision

Australia’s environment ministers appear to have gone into lock-down in the lead up to their Clean Air Agreement meeting.

In response to generic responses to requests for information, we’ve been forced to lodge FOI applications in several states to discover the detail of what is being kept secret.  In fact, it’s taken a Senate Estimates hearing this month to confirm that the meeting will be on 15 December in Canberra.  This is not a good sign. We are aware of some new proposals for decision that were not covered in either the variation impact statement or the discussion paper and have not been the subject of consultation. This has been denied by a Commonwealth Government representative.  These new proposals would allow state and territory governments to continue to go easy on air pollution and polluters.

To remind you, the ministers will be deciding at that meeting on new standards for ambient air quality in Australia.  The new standards will drive state-based air pollution controls for the foreseeable future.  A lame duck agreement will produce lame-duck controls and a missed opportunity to protect the many communities that are struggling with the health impacts of bad air.  Along with many aligned community groups and individuals, EJA has been advocating for the adoption of the strictest level of standards, that are enforceable, in accordance with established research and world’s best practice.

The backdrop to this meeting of ministers includes spikes in public attention to pollution such as: the granting of the licence for the Adani Carmichael Mine in Queensland and Mount Thorley open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley; the finalising of the second inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire in Victoria; flawed research into coal train emissions in NSW; and revelations that Volkswagen have built and sold millions of cars that emit 40-60 times the amount of toxic emissions as tested.

We will be discussing ideas and strategies at our National Air Pollution Summit on 14 November in Melbourne.  The Summit will be opened by leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Richard Di Natale.  This event will be a springboard for a new Clean Air Action Network that will see more coordinated action to build the case for effective air pollution laws in Australia.

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