Creating Change: Lobbying, regulations and policy

Lobbying for better policy and regulations relating to fossil fuels is an essential way of creating change. Unfortunately, government policy and regulations concerning the fossil fuel industry favours expansion and big businesses, and does not protect the best interests of the community. Many campaigns therefore focus on applying political and social pressure to affect protective legislation and policy.

Campaigns may be focused on grassroots community mobilisation, where enough community opposition to policy can force governments to enact change. Lobbying methods often include petitions relating to policy, which can be introduced to parliament. Community resitence and actions are also important ways of directly demonstrating opposition to policies.

Another way of changing policy is through direct involvement in the political system. For instance, political parties such as Stop CSG formed in order to implement legislation to protect communities from the threats of fracking. Other parties such as the Greens have actively pushed for better regulations and policy.

In Victoria, one of the most important forms of regulatory protection has been the passing of a moratorium on fracking. A moratorium is the delay or suspension of an activity or law. Pressuring the government to enact a moratorium has been a common method used throughout history. Halting the activity or law protects the environment, people or places which are under threat, giving the community time to mobilise and lobby the government to effect long-term policy changes.

In 2012, six local councils, 59 organisations and 1700 individuals joined Friends of the Earth in calling on the Victorian government to institute a moratorium on all new coal and unconventional gas exploration and operations.   The aim was to halt all such activities until they are scientifically proven to be safe for our families and communities, food production, water sources and natural ecosystems.

Since the launch of the campaign for the moratorium there has been mounting opposition to the expansion of Victoria’s coal and gas industries.  This has forced the Victorian government to address community concerns and institute a moratorium on all gas operations involving hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Due to continued community pressure, in Novemeber 2013, it was announced that the moratorium is to be extended to 2015.

While this is a huge step in the right direction, the moratorium on fracking only addresses risks associated with one element of the coal and gas industries.  It does not address risks to health, farmland, communities and water associated with:

•    the extraction of shallow gas deposits that do not require fracking.
•    the planned expansion of Victoria’s coal industry, including open cut coal mines.

Although this moratorium is not a sufficient protection of the Victorian people, it has at least temporarily stopped the harmful process of fracking. It is also an admission from the Government that there are major concerns around mining processes that need investigating. We continue to push for a full regulatory ban on all new coal and unconventional gas exploration and operations, and policy changes to move towards a renewable energy industry.

You can add your name to the call for regulatory changes here.