Di­rect Ac­tion back on the agenda

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - GRAHAM LLOYD EN­VI­RON­MENT EDITOR

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.

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