The Albanese government’s first budget has continued to turn around years of savage cuts to the environment budget, but there is more work to be done for nature protection and climate solutions.
Looking through the Federal Budget 2023-24, we’ve found the good, the bad and the timid when it comes to the environment and climate change.
Let’s take a look:
The Albanese government is making good, solid investments in the clean energy revolution with funds to build transmission infrastructure, attract clean capital to Australia and help workers through the energy transition. One of the key announcements was $83.2m over four years for the National Net Zero Authority. The authority will support communities to lead the way when it comes to effective energy transition. For several years now, ACF has publicly called on the Australian government to deliver this authority.
In addition, the Government will also establish the Capacity Investment Scheme to underwrite new investment in clean energy, accelerating the development of cheap, clean renewable generation and storage and ensuring the smooth transformation of Australia's energy market.
There’s also been $2bn allocated for the establishment of a new Hydrogen Headstart program, which will provide support for investment in renewable hydrogen production and help accelerate the development of Australia’s hydrogen industry.
This budget delivers $4.6bn in new climate-related expenditure, further to the $24.9 billion announced in the October budget.
Other climate initiatives funded include:
We’re also seeing some good investment allocated to protect and restore nature:
Under this budget, the continuation of subsidies will encourage big, multinational companies to use more coal, oil and gas. Approximately $50bn is earmarked in fossil fuel subsidies including $41bn for the notorious Fuel Tax Credit scheme over the forward estimates. The Fuel Tax Credit scheme increases the redirection of public wealth to fossil fuel companies via subsidies, leading to more climate pollution and less innovation within these industries.
Disappointingly, spending on a variety of initiatives, including protection and conservation of the environment and pollution abatement, are projected to decrease to 2026-27.
Other bad investments include:
Governments show their priorities through their budgets........— Kelly O'Shanassy (@kellyoshanassy) May 10, 2023
$4.5 bn to incentivise climate solutions.
$50 bn to incentivise climate pollution (fossil fuel subsidies). @albomp gov needs to change its priorities. #budget2023 #auspol @AusConservation https://t.co/49MGpYqXRH
While there are positive announcements on nature – including funding to reform our failed national environment law and a new national EPA – the government’s approach to the biodiversity crisis can best be described as timid. While experts say $2bn a year is needed to restore Australia’s degraded ecosystems and help threatened species recover, this budget acts like the biodiversity crisis isn’t a real crisis. While $2bn a year over 30 years to protect nature might sound like a lot, the government is prepared to spend six times more on nuclear submarines over the same period. Let that ‘sink’ in.
Another timid approach by the government is the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax reforms which will ensure a greater return to taxpayers from the offshore liquefied natural gas industry, but it does not go far enough.
Making offshore gas companies pay more tax is a step in the right direction, but further changes are needed so Australians get a fair share of the gas industry’s windfall profits.
Other timid investments include:
Photo: Courtesy Genex