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 Good

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:

  • $1.6bn to improve energy efficiency, including in social housing and for small businesses
  • $80m over four years to support supply of cheap, clean and reliable energy across Australia
  • $1.4bn under the $1.9bn Powering the Regions Fund for clean energy growth
  • $61.4m over four years to establish the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation
  • $302.1m over five years to support a climate-smart sustainable agricultural sector
  • $18.1m over two years to implement recommendations of the Chubb Review into carbon credits

We’re also seeing some good investment allocated to protect and restore nature:

  • $121m to establish a national EPA and $51.5m to establish Environment Information Australia
  • $14.2m over four years to support sustainable finance agenda, including $8.3m for sovereign green bond program and $4.3m to police greenwashing
  • $163.4m over 4 years to secure the future of the Australian Institute of Marine Science enabling it to continue delivering on projects to protect and restore the Great Barrier Reef
  • $355.1m over four years for National Parks, including Uluru and Kakadu
  • $118m in additional funding over six years to improve local waterways
  • $146.8m over four years towards the sustainability of the Murray-Darling Basin

The Bad

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:

The Timid

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:

  • $28m over two years for National Climate Risk Assessment and National Adaptation Plan but no other funding is allocated for the National Climate Adaptation program.
  • A modest $20.9m over five years for initiatives to decarbonise transport and infrastructure, including $7.4m to develop fuel efficiency standards.
  • $439.3m over five years to support programs that repair World Heritage properties, restore Ramsar wetlands and conserve threatened species and habitats, when vastly more is needed.
  • $7.7m for a Nature Repair Market, even though it’s unclear if linking ‘nature repair’ to the generation of offsets will facilitate the destruction of more existing wildlife habitat.
  • $40.4m to support the continuation of Indigenous Rangers Biosecurity Program and $1.2m for five new Junior Ranger sites in Central Australia.

Photo: Courtesy Genex

Maria Poulos

Parliamentary and Political Relations Manager