We know that a rise in global temperatures is absolutely devastating for Victoria. Rainfall and temperatures in the state are already tracking against the worst climate projections. We’re already suffering more frequent and intense extreme weather events – heatwaves, bushfires and drought – at the current level of warming.
We also know that the bulk of efforts to cut emissions need to happen this decade, otherwise we’re at even greater risk of triggering climate tipping points – irreversible thresholds like the melting of the polar icecaps that, if crossed, would take away our ability to get the climate system back under control.
Against this backdrop, we need to do everything we can as fast as possible. Recent analysis from leading scientists says Australia (and therefore Victoria) should be cutting emissions by about 75 per cent by 2030, not 50 per cent. The government’s own advice was that targets in the range of 45-60 per cent have very little hope of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.
The UN Secretary General has called on developed countries to phase out coal power by 2030. But the Andrews government’s Climate Change Strategy leaves two of our four big coal power stations still burning coal in a decade’s time.
All of this means that, judged against the urgency of the crisis we face, the Victorian government climate targets do not go far enough.
And so that gets us to the final verdict – these emissions targets are politically bold, but scientifically inadequate.
Nothing ends with this announcement. The climate crisis remains unresolved and we face the growing risk of shocks to our lives – both from direct climate impacts like bushfires, drought and heatwaves, but also from the cascading effects of these disasters on the global economy and to geopolitical stability.
It is true that it shouldn’t be up to state governments to do the heavy lifting (hello Scott Morrison), but to date that’s all that has made a difference. Caught between the politics and the science, we must encourage governments that are actually taking some responsibility for cutting pollution, and praise them for their leadership … while at the same time pointing out that we need to go much further, much faster.
Dr Nicholas Aberle is campaigns manager at Environment Victoria.