Spotlight Activity: Australia’s Annual Budget Does Not Address Climate
On May 8, the Australian government distributed its 2018 federal budget laying out its social and economic goals and strategies for the coming year. This new budget did not mention climate change or allocate any additional funding for climate action projects. Peter Hannam, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Environment Editor, found that the outlined spending makes Australia’s modest Paris climate pledge even less likely.
The Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg continued to emphasize the importance of the National Energy Guarantee, a policy designed to create a more stable energy system, to meeting Australia’s 26-28% emissions reduction target. However, this policy has been sharply criticized by both the energy industry and activists for not adequately reducing emissions levels from energy producers. There is no mention in the 2018 budget of strategies or funding that will allow Australia to transition to a zero-carbon electricity grid.
The largest environmental-related item in the budget appears to be $535.9 million to secure the Great Barrier Reef’s future by partnering with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to improve water quality and develop new methods to promote coral reef resiliency. Questions have been raised as to why the Foundation—a tiny organisation that obtained the funding with no formal tender process—has been granted such a significant amount of money when other, larger groups working to secure the Reef’s future would be able to better utilise half a billion dollars of taxpayers money.
At the same time the Adani Carmichael mega-mine (which would dredge its coal through the Reef before export) and the proposed adjoining Alpha North mine continue to be seriously considered. And in Victoria leases for natural gas exploration have been quietly approved by the state government despite community opposition.
Status: Falling Behind
Even before this budget was released Australia faced criticism from activists for their emissions reduction goal which many felt was insufficient. This marked reduction in spending to address climate issues, from $3 billion in the current year to $1.6 billion for 2018-2019, only highlights Australia’s continuing lack of commitment to supporting international emissions reductions.
In addition, while the proposed budget allocates money for the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef it addresses the consequences of rising water temperatures rather than the root causes of climate change. It fails to hold the energy industry accountable for its emissions levels. And, if fossil fuel exploration continues, any positives stemming from new funding for the Great Barrier Reef will be quickly cancelled out.
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Honorable Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
695 Burke Road
Camberwell, VIC, 3124
Telephone: +61 3 9882 3677
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