Direct Action back on the agenda
The Coalition will refocus environment policies on the Abbottera Direct Action plan, including a rebooted Green Army and a reverse auction scheme to improve land management and help communities, Environment Minister Melissa Price has declared.
Ms Price is preparing to push for more funding for the $2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund, which is almost empty. The pri- ority would be projects that provided co-benefits for the environment and community rather than simply cut carbon dioxide emissions. “I am particularly interested in those Direct Action projects that help the environment and give people opportunity,” Ms Price said.
Direct Action was “something I believe as an individual we should be doing”, she said.
“I do not see it as a return (to Abbott-era policies). We have had very good environmental programs under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull.”
The ERF is a reverse auction scheme that supports refores- tation and other projects to sequester carbon dioxide and reduce emissions. The scheme has been criticised because it relies on government funding that could limit the number of projects funded. Environment groups have also said benefits from the ERF have been more than offset by increased land-clearing in Queensland and NSW.
Ms Price said land-clearing predominantly was a responsibility for state government.
In a wide-ranging interview,
Ms Price said it was wrong to focus solely on greenhouse gas emissions. “When you focus on emissions, you are missing part of the story on how you are helping the environment,” she said. “There is no doubt the ERF is supporting good projects on the land. If we are confident about meeting the 2030 target, we have to look at what we have got, what we can do to support more people on the ground with land projects that have a multitude of co-benefits.”
There is about $250 million left of the $2.5bn original budget funding for the emissions reduction fund. The last auction in June supported 32 projects to save 6.67 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions at an average price of $13.52 a tonne. The fund has issued 738 contracts to save more than 51 million tonnes of emissions.
The Green Army program closed on June 30. It engaged more than 11,000 young people on about 1000 heritage and conservation projects.
Ms Price said although the program had ended, the final projects were still under way.
A new budget allocation will be needed to continue the ERF and restart the Green Army.