As this term of government draws to a close ACF has examined the Abbott/Turnbull government’s environmental record and found much more bad than good.

“It is very disappointing to look back at this government’s environmental record and see so many poor choices, short-sighted decisions and missed opportunities,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.

“We had to give this government a ‘fail’ on the environment when we considered that it had repealed a working price on pollution, cut the renewable energy target after a confidence-sapping 18-month review, kept weak climate targets and approved Adani’s proposal for the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history.

“Most Australians expect the federal government to lead the nation with plans that will protect wildlife, nature and life in Australia.

“In the midst of a climate crisis and an extinction crisis, we need a visionary government.

“The Abbott/Turnbull government has not provided the sort of leadership Australia desperately needs to change the trajectory of extinction and damage to the natural world that sustains us.

“As we get closer to a federal election, it’s worth remembering the future we hand on to the generations that follow ours will be the result of decisions elected representatives make today.”

ACF will issue two scorecards assessing political parties’ environmental policies during the election campaign – one during the first half of the election campaign, the other in the week before polling day.

Abbott/Turnbull government environmental record

The bad

✘  1. Repealed the price on pollution, making Australia the first country to remove a working carbon price and leaving no mechanism to make polluters pay for their pollution; Australia’s carbon pollution is now rising as a result. 

✘  2. Cut the Renewable Energy Target from 41,000GWh to 33,000GWh, following a confidence-sapping 18-month review, and included the burning of ‘biomass’ from native forests as ‘renewable energy’.

✘  3. Abolished the Climate Commission, a trusted body that produced factual and independent information on climate change for the Australian community.

✘  4. Intends to abolish the Climate Change Authority, Australia’s independent climate science advisory group.

✘  5. Approved Adani’s proposal for the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history.

✘  6. Limited Australia’s pollution target to 5 per cent by 2020, despite advice from Climate Change Authority that conditions have been met for the target to be strengthened.

✘  7. Set target to cut pollution by 26–28 per cent by 2030, which is not consistent with keeping global warming below 1.5°C and makes Australia’s target one of the weakest among developed nations.

✘  8. Approved one of the world’s largest coal ports, at Abbot Point, near Bowen.

✘  9. Abolished Ministerial positions of Climate Change and Science (in 2016 the Science portfolio was reinstated).

✘  10. Scrapped the popular and effective Home Energy Saver scheme.

✘  11. Scrapped the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program.

✘  12. Dropped election commitment for One Million Solar Roofs.

✘  13. Signed deal to sell uranium to India, contrary to the advice of parliamentary committee.

✘  14. Signed deal to sell uranium to Ukraine, home of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and scene of ongoing civil and military instability.

✘  15. Asked UNESCO to de-list 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forests that had been nominated for World Heritage Listing (UNESCO rejected the request).

✘  16. Established unnecessary and divisive office of Wind Farm Commissioner.

✘  17. Attempted to abdicate federal responsibility for national environmental approvals and give that power to state governments.

✘  18. Attempted to amend national environment law to remove water trigger.

✘  19. Approved cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park.

✘  20. Disallowed additional protection of Murray-Darling ecological systems under national environment laws.

✘  21. Abolished the National Water Commission.

✘  22. Facilitated the selling of environmental water to irrigators in order to pay for environmental infrastructure.

✘  23. Removed funding for Environmental Defenders’ Offices.

✘  24. De-funded the Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability & Heritage Organisations, which supported more than a 150 groups across the country.

✘  25. Attempted to repeal s.487 of the EPBC Act to remove the right of communities to seek judicial review of decisions made under national environment law.

✘  26. Attempted to silence environment groups by establishing a parliamentary inquiry that threatens to remove groups’ critical Deductible Gift Recipient status.

✘  27. Cut funding to renewable energy agency ARENA and replaced grants based approach with debt-and-equity funding experts worry will not support emerging technologies.

✘  28. Cut climate science positions at CSIRO.

The good

✔   1. Attended UN Paris Climate Summit and signed Paris Agreement.

✔  2. Maintained funding for the excellent Indigenous Rangers (Indigenous Landcare) program.

✔  3. Established office of Threatened Species Commissioner and hosted the first national Threatened Species Summit

✔  4. Announced National Innovation & Science Agenda and invested $142m in the National Environmental Science Program, including $30m in a Threatened Species Hub

✔  5. Funded some projects to tackle feral animals and help threatened speciesrecover.

✔  6. Created new Ministerial portfolio of Cities and the Built Environment.

The jury's still out

~  1. Created the Emission Reduction Fund, which will achieve some good outcomes, but is inefficient and unable to deliver emissions reductions on the scale required.

~  2. Combined the Carbon Farming Initiative with the Emissions Reduction Fund, making some improvements but adding some risks.

~  3. Committed ‘at least $1bn’ in climate finance over five years for developing nations, but took the money from Australia’s existing overseas aid budget.

~  4. Announced new Clean Energy Innovation Fund, but with funding taken fromrestructuring the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

~  5. Established 20 Million Trees and Green Army programs, but abolished the Biodiversity Fund and redirected funding away from Landcare.

~  6. Launched review of Australia’s marine reserves, leaving the reserves’ future uncertain.

~  7. Launched review of vehicle emissions standards, even though it is already well-known Australia’s standards are lagging behind other developed countries.

Abbott/Turnbull government environmental record

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Tom Arup on 0402 482 910 or Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email action@acf.org.au.