The Conservation Council ACT Region cautiously welcomed funding for climate action and the environment announced today by the ACT Government, though has raised concerns that some of the biggest-ticket items in the Budget will deliver little in the way of emissions reductions.

Helen Oakey, Executive Director of the Conservation Council ACT Region, said “Today’s announcement of $45 million towards climate action ignores the fact that more than two-thirds of that funding is for two projects that will deliver marginal emissions reductions in the context of the ACT’s climate targets.

“Accounting for $27 million of today’s funding announcement, nine new zero-emissions vehicles for the ACT Emergency Services and energy efficiency upgrades at Callam Offices in Woden may be worthwhile projects, but they should not be used as an indicator of the Government’s commitment to cutting greenhouse emissions.

“The decision by the Government to upgrade emergency services vehicles to electric is a welcome one – the Government should be taking this opportunity right across their fleet as replacement vehicles are ordered and as technology becomes available.

“However, in light of the climate emergency and the race to reach zero emissions, spending on climate action should be directed towards projects that will deliver significant emissions reductions right across the community, and projects that promote climate action while benefiting Canberra households.

“In contrast to the large-scale expenditure on infrastructure, less than a million dollars over 4 years has been allocated to work on engaging and informing the community about climate action. The investment in the Community Zero Emissions Grants scheme, which funds the community to lead initiatives that support the ACT’s transition to net zero emissions, has remained static. This appears to be at odds with the Government’s own position that the community has a more important role than ever in helping the ACT reach emission reduction targets.

“We’ve seen a delay in the rollout of the vulnerable household scheme which has only received 10% of the $50m funding commitment made in the parliamentary agreement. Right now, off the back of COVID, vulnerable Canberrans should be a high priority for the Government. We look forward to seeing this scheme ramped up over the next two years in conjunction with new legislation to set energy efficiency standards for rental properties.

“Today’s announcement also made no mention of funding for several items listed in last year’s Parliamentary & Governing Agreement about transition planning to phase out the gas network, other than the already announced Sustainable Households Scheme.”

“The Council welcomes the additional $3.6 million announced on planning for environmental protection of precious woodlands and grasslands in the face of ongoing urban development, and an extra $3 million to manage invasive species. However, more funding is required to manage our nature reserves in a way that improves their biodiversity and ensures positive outcomes over the long term.

“In addition, $5m for Healthy Waterways is welcomed, however we look forward to seeing when and how the balance of the financial commitment made in the Parliamentary and Government Agreement of $50m is rolled out.

Adequate funding for the natural environment and to cut the ACT’s emissions is essential to shaping a sustainable city going forward. We look forward to seeing further Budget announcements this week in the area of transport and city services that will also help deliver on this ambition.