Victoria ramps up leadership challenge on climate

The Victorian state government is calling for public comment as part of the review of the state’s Climate Change Act. The government said the review is a key part of positioning the state as a leader in adapting to climate change impacts, reducing emissions and managing the risks.

The comment was welcomed by environmental interests and follows signals by South Australia that it has also ramped up its sustainability and climate action targets announced in the recent budget, with moves backed by Adelaide City Council.

The Victorian government has appointed an Independent Review Committee chaired by head of Baker McKenzie’s global environmental markets practice Martijn Wilder, and including, chief executive of ClimateWorks Australia, Anna Skarbek and professor of climate and environmental law at Sydney Law School, The University of Sydney.

Terms of reference include a review of the effectiveness of the current operation of the Act:

  • whether it provides a strong foundation for both mitigation and adaptation action
  • whether it is sufficiently robust to deal with changes over time.

Terms of reference allow the committee to seek the views of the community, business, and non-government sector representatives in developing its report to the Minister.

Acting Victorian environment, water and climate change minister Gavin Jennings said climate change was a one of the key issues facing Victoria.

“Rebuilding our Climate Change Act is a vital step in tackling climate change and we want to give everyone the opportunity to have a say,” Mr Jennings said.

“We want Victoria to be well placed into the future in combating climate change – using the best science and the views of the community in framing our response.”

Environment Victoria chief executive, Mark Wakefield, said the organisation is optimistic the review will result in a “step change” in state policy.

The current federal policy reversals meant there was more need than ever for the states to step up, he said.

EV will be making a submission to the review, highlighting the need for a “nation-leading state policy.”

Mr Wakefield said the policy, however, needed to address the four “dirty” coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley that are the source of 50 per cent of the state’s total carbon emissions.

Transition plan needed

Plans for closure of the power stations needed to be done in tandem with regional development plans for East Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley, because “you can’t talk about transition without talking about what you are transitioning to”.

He said it had recently been shown that a power station could be closed down by its operators at any time, so “it is better to be on the front foot now.”

Mr Wakefield said the Andrews government has consistently said it wants to be a leader on climate change. Two other recent announcements sit alongside the CCA policy review – the development of a new state energy-efficiency strategy and a new state renewable energy strategy, expected to be released later this year.

EV would like to see the Greener Government Buildings program reinstated, as it’s axing was “pure ideological madness”, Mr wakefield said.

“It was saving the government considerable amounts of money,” he said.

‘There are also real opportunities for government procurement of renewable energy.”

More efficient housing needed

EV also hoped the energy-efficiency strategy would include plans to increase the energy efficiency of homes across the state. Mr Wakefield said the current average is 2.5 stars, and he believed the government should be looking to an average of 5 stars as the goal, including regulatory or public investment measures to targeting the one million low income Victorians.

Mr Wakefield said the government needed to ensure there are either much stronger incentives for landlords to upgrade properties or impose minimum performance standards.

“The government should look at regulatory standards at the point of sale and lease [for homes], and we need the same sort of efforts in the commercial property space,” Mr Wakefield said.

Public submissions can be made between now and August 2 here.

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