Victoria's environment fail: Audits reveal broken promises, green decline

Victoria’s environment fail: Audits reveal broken promises, green decline

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Reports highlight declining health of Victorian environment, and pattern of broken green policy promises under the state Coalition government.

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The Victorian Coalition government has been given a resounding “fail” for its handling of environment issues, with the latest report on its green achievements revealing a of pattern broken policy promises and backwards steps.

In its annual ‘Envirowatch’ audit, not-for-profit green group Environment Victoria found that the Coalition government, now lead by Premier Denis Napthine, had broken 13 key election promises on green policy in its three years in power.

These included promises to deliver on Victoria’s greenhouse pollution reduction target of 20 per cent by 2020; to direct an inquire on the design of a market-based gross feed-in tariff scheme for renewable energy; to implement a $20 million plan to replace inefficient street lights; and to transition all existing housing stock to meet an average of 5 star energy rating.

Environment Victoria CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said that in a “terrible three years” for Victoria’s environment, only 16 of the 58 environmental policy commitments made ahead of the election had been delivered in full; nine had been partially delivered, five had not yet been delivered, 13 represented a step backwards and 13 had been broken.

According to the report, some of the above-mentioned ‘backwards steps’ included commercialising National Parks for private interests, reducing government support for solar and wind power, and scrapping greenhouse pollution standards for new power stations.

The delivery of the scathing Environment Victoria report has coincided with the release of results from a major stocktake of Victoria’s environment – the first of its kind in five years – detailing significant worsening trends in critical areas of green health.

The audit – commissioned by the government itself and prepared by Victoria’s Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Professor Kate Auty – has found that, of 30 indicators used to assess the state’s environmental health, 16 have been found to be in poor health, six fair, just one good.

Most notably, reports The Age, the state’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 12 per cent between 1989-90 and 2010-11; the number of wildlife species under threat increased; and the extent and condition of native vegetation was found to be in decline.

The report also recommends several ways for the government to remedy the problems, including policies aimed at cutting CBD car use and congestion, and the development of a plan to “modernise” Victoria’s energy system, including encouraging more renewables and increasing energy efficiency.

All in all, the report offers a total of 32 recommendations of policy measures to help save the government from a legacy of what Environment Victoria’s O’Shanassy has described as taking the state’s environment protection backwards by decades.

“Unfortunately positive environmental action by the state Coalition has been the exception rather than the rule,” O’Shanassy said, noting the two particular exceptions of the government’s strong urban water efficiency agenda and the recently announced moratorium on fracking.

“With actions such as abandoning action on climate change and commercialising national parks, the government is putting the jobs, health and wealth of all Victorians as risk,” she said.

“For the Coalition to have any credibility on the environment at the 2014 election, it would require a massive turnaround in approach, beginning with dropping plans for a coal allocation in the Latrobe Valley and scrapping Ted Baillieu’s anti-wind farm laws.”

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