The Friends of the Earth (FOE) have come up with a post Covid-19 Blueprint for Australia much of which is valid for Gippsland. The Blueprint for Climate Justice is in “response to the economic impacts of the outbreak of the Coronavirus” pandemic and noted “state and federal governments are now announcing rolling, large-scale stimulus packages to keep the economy afloat. These already total billions of dollars and are likely to be ongoing. This is both a threat and an opportunity for the future of the economy, the climate and ecosystems at a time of overlapping crises.”
The threat is that “the Morrison government [will] attempt to force through subsidies for new coal mines and fossil fuel generators, bailouts of large corporations and guarantees for executive pay” whilst the opportunity is “to use the massive investment of public funds [required] to start to position our economy to be fit for purpose for the reality of climate change”. The latter is commonly referred to as a ‘just transition’ and is essential in creating lasting solutions for climate action. It requires that this “massive investment of public funds” (which the pandemic had already necessitated) be invested wisely.
The blueprint lists over 50 possible investments in rebuilding public infrastructure, energy, cities and transport, forests, rivers and the natural world, agriculture and food systems and waste. At the same time clearly asserts that a basic guarantee of jobs, housing and essential services is required for all. As I have pointed out previously there will be jobs for all when the climate emergency is tackled properly.
Of negative relevance to Gippsland in the blueprint is that the ‘waste to energy’ plant planned for in the Latrobe Valley is unsustainable and should therefore be shelved. Likewise are the plans and investments already made for the production of hydrogen using brown coal. On the positive side the blueprint promotes offshore wind – the only project of this kind on the drawing board being the Star of the South in south Gippsland.
The blueprint also noted that the selection of pumped hydro projects should be fast tracked of which there are a number of possibilities in Gippsland including Paul Treasure’s Baw Baw Thompson Dam pumped hydro proposal. In the energy area the blueprint also suggested “Directly fund[ing] the construction of mid-scale community owned renewable energy projects such as wind and solar farms, micro-hydro and energy storage in every local council area in regional Victoria.”
There are obvious and clear choices for governments to make on this. We are, more or less, following the directions of science on the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Now is the time, and the opportunity, to follow the science on climate change. Thanks are due to the FOE for their pioneering efforts and their perseverance.