By Katherine Smyrk
Can you believe it? It’s 2014 already. It isn’t quite how some us may have imagined it; there are no jet packs, flying cars or robot butlers.
We do, however, have some very modern advances and luxuries in our lives now that are just becoming the norm. Ipads feel like something imagined in a sci-fi movie, phones speak to you, and wind turbines provide 20% of South Australia’s energy.
Unfortunately, sometimes our government seems stuck back in the time when all these things were just children’s imaginations and people weren’t sure if that internet thing would really take off.
We’ve launched into the futuristic-sounding 2014 with even less action on climate change than we had years ago and a cabinet determined to dismantle every thing that might be making the tiniest bit of change.
In the final throes of last year, the Abbott government cut $6.7 million from the Caring for our Country program, removed all federal funding for Environmental Defenders Offices around the country, abolished the Biodiversity Fund and the Low Carbon Communities program, confirmed a $40 million cut to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and has forgone $7.4 billion in revenue by ditching the carbon price and $439 million over the next three years by scrapping the profitable Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Quit Coal were particularly distraught to hear the news of the cuts to the Environmental Defenders office. The EDO has been working tirelessly in Victoria and around to country to provide legal advice and guidance to communities that are facing unbridled mining and exploration in their areas. They have been a huge presence at meetings throughout Gippsland with communities that are facing unconventional gas mining. Please offer your support any way you can here.
But while we are ropeable about these cuts, they make us all the more determined to make 2014 the year of the future. This year we will be aiming to cure the myopia of the Federal and State Government and make them start acting like our future is something worth protecting.
We have had great success so far with pushing the State Government to take action but will be pushing even harder this year. Despite the Moratorium on fracking, the Napthine Government’s climate policy is nowhere to be seen. The wind industry and it’s related jobs and revenue are still being crippled by the V86 anti-wind farm laws, which allow any landowner to veto a wind farm within 2 kms of their property. $90million of state and federal money has been allocated for companies to develop “clean coal” technology for the state. 13 billion tonnes of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley has been earmarked to start a brand new coal export industry in Victoria. And although fracking has been banned (temporarily), exploration licences are still in place and the industry is still hungrily advancing, with Lakes Oil planning to drill for gas in Gippsland in February this year. The ALP have pledged to stop unconventional gas drilling until a year long state enquiry into impacts and safety has been completed. However they are refusing to take a stance on the coal exports that could take our emissions to catastrophic levels.
But with an election looming at the end of the year, we are just gearing up. Throughout 2013, Quit Coal spent many evenings and weekends driving out to Gippsland where we witnessed an incredible explosion of communities forcefully rejecting the harmful gas and coal industries. With guidance from Quit Coal, Lock the Gate and the EDO, four communities surveyed all residents in their area and declared themselves Coal and Gas Free. In 2014, we will see much more of this amazing community power, with already more than 20 communities in Gippsland and Western Victoria set to start the process.
This year we are not afraid, in fact we are relishing the chance, to get our hands dirty in this vital grassroots fight to protect our communities, our water, our health and our climate. It has been so inspiring working with tireless volunteers and caring people all over the state who are determined to reduce our impact on climate change and try to secure a government that will protect the things that matter.
In the future, we don’t want jet packs or flying cars (well only a little bit). We just want a safe, clean country and climate.