Budget curses climate in name of growth



The 2018-19 federal budget reads as an ongoing denial of the immediacy of climate change in Australia. The Department of The Environment and Energy had its funding slashed, grossing $168.7 million from last year.

crown of thorns starfishThe focus on energy in the 2018-9 budget is not to build a robust renewables system. Instead, the Minister Josh Frydenberg has announced this is a budget that will 'help keep the lights on and put downward pressure on power bills'.

There is no argument against Australians having a right to secure energy. However, the environmental portfolio appears to be neglecting its purpose of protecting the environment by reinforcing the use of fossil fuels, with a $41.5 million allocation in this year's budget.

By comparison, the Emissions Reductions Fund, which is money specifically set aside to fund renewable energy, has been cut from $3 billion in 2017-18 to $1.6 billion in the 2018-19 budget. This includes funding to solar wind farms being halved and solar programs cut by eight per cent.

A striking component of the environmental budget allocation is its focus on growing jobs and enterprise off the back of fossil fuel energy. Growth is the main message in the department's budget press release. It's disappointing to see rising temperatures do not feature as a theme, nor does the future security of the Australian recycling program, which already has a precarious future as we continue to lean on China to recycle our waste.

The protection of the environment for future generations relies on the ability of the government to fulfil the outcomes the ministry is founded on. The first outcome, and perhaps the most important, is to 'conserve, protect and sustainably manage Australia's biodiversity', and the second looks to 'reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions'.

It would appear these outcomes are reflected through the half a billion dollars put towards the Great Barrier Reef. This money will work towards ongoing conservation, reducing the number of crown of thorns starfish and ongoing monitoring of water quality.


"Will the government ever notice the needs of the Department of the Environment and Energy, and will the Minister ever notice the environment?"


It doesn't, however, go towards reducing the threat to the reef, the biggest of these being the pending Adani coal mine in North Queensland. The mine is set to generate $16.5 billion for the Australian government, making the donation to the reef only a fraction compared to the coal which will be dug up.

It was the former minister for the environment Greg Hunt who first approved the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine in 2015. Despite the irony of an environment minister approving an open cut coal project, every consecutive budget has failed to factor the type of carbon offset which would be needed to combat the level of emissions a mine of this magnitude would create.

It seems with every passing year the government is siloing its building and expansion funding from the money needed to prevent the environmental consequences of these endeavours.

In this budget, we see an environmental agenda hijacked to reinforce ideas of growth, using environmental buzz words which convince constituents it's for the earth. National infrastructure has been given $24.5 billion in the budget — that equals billions of kilos of waste, pollution and landfill impact as these building projects commence.

There needs to be a way to achieve a greater balance in spending in sectors while remaining aware of the clash it will have with the environment.

The environment can't be protected for future generations when money is focused on research into our fuel stock and delivery of gas across Australia. This is the funding of short-sighted solutions.

The government has allocated an additional $6.1 million over the next year to improve education about climate change, and to work to 'improve climate change information for the energy sector'. This is an investment into scientific information that the CSRIO and the Bureau of Meteorology have been trying to convince the government about for the last decade. It's questionable whether this education will be absorbed by the Coalition Government, whose power it is to take meaningful and direct action on climate change.

Will the government ever notice the needs of the Department of the Environment and Energy, and will the Minister ever notice the environment?



Francine CrimminsFrancine Crimmins is a writer and radio journalist. She has also contributed to the ABC and The Wire. She is on twitter @frankiecrimmins

Topic tags: Francine Crimmins, Budget 2018, environment, climate change, renewables, Great Barrier Reef, Adani



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Existing comments

This Government aren't serious about tackling climate change, which is the most serious threat to our Great Barrier Reef!

Grant Allen | 10 May 2018  

Will the government ever notice the environment? Yes, they notice and they know all about it, it is just that either (1) they don't care or, more worryingly, (2) they are part of a corporations-led programme to destroy this planet for life. That is, the conspiracy theories are true. If the latter is true we are in very big trouble. Unfortunately there is a religious dimension here, to do with "end times". I have not heard any of our politicians endorse such thinking, but they certainly behave as if they do!

Janet | 11 May 2018  

Alas, your argument is based on false premise that human produced CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are the main driver of the current moderate global warming. It is not! CO2 is a minor greenhouse gas and its proportion in the atmosphere is tiny. Its effect is much exaggerated for political ideological reasons mainly to demonise coal. Natural climatic factors are at work in a complex climate system as always and have most impact on global warming, and cooling. They include sun flare and sunspot activity and the Decadal Pacific Oscillation system.

Gerard Tonks | 11 May 2018  

Francine, The short answer to your question is NO. The mantra of "jobs and growth" continues ; to hell with the environment. As Stewards for the Planet, we are failing disastrously . As voters, we voted this Government in, as voters we can equally vote them out. I firmly believe at life's end the "Grand Old Designer" will ask each of us personally , not how many sins we committed, but how well did your care for my creation?

Gavin | 11 May 2018  

The Adani mine promises to be an environmental travesty, the result of short-sighted and delinquent policy making. Every effort should be made to secure the future for generations to come through intelligent, strategic, sustainable policies based on respect for planet earth and the connectedness of all creation. We have no other home.

Laura Murray Cree | 11 May 2018  

Thank you Francine for showing up the current government and rightly questioning who or what is behind these decisions. In relation to the comment from Gerard. I often wonder why those who challenge the science of human induced climate change don't challenge the science of such things as a 'complex climate system' or 'sun flare' or 'Decadal Pacific Oscillation' and the like. Why is the science in these cases believed and the science of human induced climate effects not believed?

Tom Kingston | 15 May 2018  

When I was training to be a teacher, over fifty years ago, we were firmly instructed that the AIM of program development was of central importance. Everything else hangs on your ultimate aim. Later, I learned in practice that it's not only true for educational programs - it's true for any organization's planning. I've innocently thought that the ultimate aim for society is the well-being, the flourishing, of the people. As the Maori say "What is the most important thing? The people, the people, the people"! Or in Christian tradition "The glory of God is Man fully alive". OK. What's the main aim of politicians and their parties? Re-election. What're the main aim of a for-profit business? Financial profit. These aren't evil in themselves, but when they are seen as goods superior to the flourishing of the people (and thus of their environment) we'll get exactly what Francine describes in this article. No matter what they say, they are not on our side. They worship a different god.

Joan Seymour | 18 May 2018  

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