Victorian climate change laws: A state stepping up

The Victorian government today released their intentions to change Victoria’s climate change laws.

Climate change is real, and it’s happening now. The devastating bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef due to warmer water is not something that can be dismissed or hidden, despite the best efforts of the Federal government – and yet Australia is still ticking off on new coal mines.

With the federal election just around the corner, there’s a very real possibility that we’ll get another three years of Turnbull government tinkering around the edges of the real, lasting changes we need to make to avoid the worst climate change scenarios.

But we do not need to wait for federal government action. State governments can take on the role of action on climate. Today the Victorian government are promising to do just that.

Their plans for Victoria’s climate laws draw heavily on Environmental Justice Australia’s proposed Climate Charter. A report by the Independent Review Panel suggested that the government embrace many of our proposed measures.

They include emissions targets enshrined in law, and provisions that mean climate change will need to be taken into account in a whole range of government decision and policies – embedding climate change considerations throughout the Victorian Government. .

The best things about these new laws will be:

  • Legislated emissions targets of 0 net emissions by 2050 and interim 5 yearly targets to help us reach the long term goal.
  • Politicians held accountable. The Government has agreed with the independent committee that the Premier and Environment Minister should be held accountable for meeting the targets, and although they have not said how this would happen, this is a crucial measure.
  • Pledges to reduce emissions. Each Government department will be required to pledge its contribution to the state target from its own operations, and the sectors that it regulates. Climate change considerations to be embedded in government decision making.  Using the Charter model we proposed, climate objectives will be brought into government decisions ensuring state and local government are properly considering how they can reduce emissions, and better protect biodiversity and communities from impacts.

There is still a lot of detail to come on how exactly the government intends to meet the target – we will be watching closely for this and analysing it when it comes.  And a big concern is the slow pace that the government is proposing for full implementation – no Climate Strategy until 2020 is far too late.

While the provisions suggested aren’t perfect – we’d like to see more transparency and mechanisms for community involvement in decisions on climate – Victoria’s stance could provide a model for states to step up.

The key now will be for the Government to move rapidly to convert these promises into law so that they are embedded in government well before the next election. Once government agencies are implementing the laws and it becomes apparent that positive action on climate change will not cause the sky to fall in, maybe then we can start to take the politics out of climate action and get on with the job.

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