On the afternoon of March 30, Friends of the Earth campaigner Cam Walker said on Twitter: “This has been the week from hell for climate change politics in Vic. There's still a few working hours, maybe a nuke power plant is next?”
Climate targets, standards abandoned
The week began with the announcement that the state government was to abandon its 20% greenhouse emissions reduction target. The rationale was that having a 20% target would be too expensive, requiring the purchase of $2.2 billion in international offsets, which is unnecessary with the federal target at only 5%.
Walker said: “While this had been expected for some time, the fact that the government is prepared to operate without a climate change policy or any meaningful program for action is nothing short of negligent given what we know about climate science.”
Environment Victoria CEO Kelly O’Shannassy said: “Premier [Ted] Baillieu cannot credibly say we don’t need a pollution reduction target because we have a carbon price while at the same time his federal counterpart Tony Abbott is promising to tear up carbon price legislation. The Coalition is in complete disarray on climate change and is not being honest with Victorians or Australians.”
At the same time, the state government abandoned the former Labor government’s plan to make it illegal for coal-fired power stations in Victoria to emit more than 0.8 tonnes of carbon per megawatt hour. The government cited federal Labor energy minister Martin Ferguson’s abandonment of any federal emissions standards last year.
New coal power given thumbs up
On March 29, Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) approved an appeal by coal power company HRL for its “dual gas” brown coal power plant to proceed at the originally specified capacity, 600 megawatts. The appeal was against an earlier decision that approved a plant only half that size.
Environment Victoria and local community climate action group LIVE had brought their own challenge to the earlier EPA approval, saying that a new coal-fired power station should not have been approved as the “best practice” required under the Environment Protection Act.
O’Shannassy said: “Julia Gillard needs to step up and withdraw the federal government’s $100 million grant to this polluting power station immediately. The power station will be highly polluting, out-of-date and economically unviable regardless of how big they build it, based on expert evidence given in VCAT.”
On March 29, another coal exploration licence was approved for Lakes Oil, through its 100% owned subsidiary Commonwealth mining. The exploration lease is for brown coal and coal seam gas, and covers land south of Rosedale in the Latrobe Valley.
More money for coal burning
On March 30, the federal climate change department announced it would award $760 million to Victoria’s three biggest coal power stations, taking up more than three quarters of its $1 billion compensation set aside to help generators adjust to the carbon price.
Reuters noted: “Apart from the cash grants, the government is also in negotiations with coal-fired power generators to pay to cut 2,000 megawatts of electricity generation from the biggest polluting power stations by 2020.”