Environment groups speak out against government shortcomings



Wind turbine

Fast track Australia to a clean energy future, green groups urge the government.

Credit: Dirk Ingo Franke/Wikimedia

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Australian environment organisations are uniting in opposition to the Federal Government's proposed emissions trading legislation, and speaking out against compromises made on pre-election commitments to take strong action on climate change.

A recent emergency meeting of national and peak state-based environment organisations, representing more than 400,000 Australians, has also produced a new report outlining a suite of measures that could be
in place within two years to put Australia within reach of halving its greenhouse emissions within a decade.

They are urging the Rudd Government "to abandon the fundamentally flawed CPRS and commit Australia to this new approach to tackle climate change," said one of the groups behind the report, Friends of the Australia.

The Executive Director of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Cate Faehrmann, said the government's approach to climate change was dangerously inadequate because it does not respond to the latest science, and instead has been hijacked by vested interests.

"There is emerging consensus among leading international climate scientists that there is already
too much carbon in the atmosphere and that we need to pull out all stops to avoid reaching
catastrophic tipping points within the climate system," she said.

"We face a climate emergency, but the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme fails all Australians and it undermines international negotiations. It fails the climate, fails the environment and fails to capitalise on the enormous opportunities in growing a green economy."

Small targets and "half measures" by the government have lead to a failure to address the root cause of Australia's growing greenhouse emissions, said Greenpeace's Jeremy Tager.

"Australia's energy emissions have increased by nearly 50 per cent since 1990 and now account for more than half of Australia's total greenhouse pollution," he said.

"The only way to tackle this threat to all Australians is to fast track the switch to clean renewable energy by phasing out coal-fired power stations, directing subsidies into renewable energy generation, energy savings and doubling the renewable energy target."

These measures are among the key actions needed to be taken, the participating groups have urged. Already proven and ready to be implemented, they are outlined in the meeting's joint report, Plan B: An Agenda for Immediate Climate Action.

In it, a national energy savings program is recommended which would including a green overhaul of buildings in Australia over the next decade to create new jobs, and reduce the 30 per cent of carbon emissions that buildings account for.

In order to expediate the move towards a clean energy economy, the groups are also urging for Australia's current renewable energy target to be doubled to 90,000 gigawatt hours by 2020 in conjunction with the phasing out of coal-fired plants.

The report also outlines a needed shift to low emissions vehicles and sustainable cities, including measures such as setting targets for fuel efficiency, developing sustainable transport infrastructure and incentives for the development of electric vehicles.

It also advocates the protection of native forests as carbon stores, including ending old-growth forest logging, as well as the establishment of a national green jobs and industries plan. Up to 80,000 green collar jobs are possible in Australia by 2030, the groups said, if incentives through government policy are provided, such as through the development of the renewable energy sector, sustainable agriculture and

"[These measures] can be implemented right now to put Australia back on track to halve our emissions over the next decade, which the leading scientists are saying is what is needed," said Faehrmann.

"The good news is that many of these measures will create jobs, reduce fuel and electricity bills
and create a new clean energy economy."

The environment organisations involved in this initiative include The Wilderness Society, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Environment Victoria, Queensland Conservation Council, Nature Conservation
Council of NSW, Conservation Council of SA, Environment Tasmania, Conservation Council WA, and Conservation Council ACT Region.