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Canberra Today 11°/15° | Saturday, September 25, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Greens have ‘never wavered’ on biodiversity

MLA Jo Clay… “I’m new to politics, so I’m delighted we’ve gone into this term with a running start that builds on Greens’ work from previous assemblies.”

Greens MLA for Ginninderra JO CLAY replies to “Canberra Matters” columnist Paul Costigan on the issue of biodiversity. 

PAUL Costigan’s article (“Compromised Greens turn backs on biodiversity”, CN September 9) questioned the ACT Greens’ commitment to climate change and biodiversity.

I agree these should be top political priorities. But good democracy demands well-informed debate, so I’d like to set the record straight on a few of Mr Costigan’s claims.

The ACT Greens campaigned on a bold platform targeting big problems – climate change, the environment, housing and the growing gap between rich and poor. We then negotiated with Labor and received support for many of our policies.

We campaigned on climate ideas that had no prior government commitment, such as phasing out fossil-fuel gas and electrifying our entire transport system. Some ideas were so progressive that they were labelled “crazy” by the old parties during the campaign.

But the Labor/Greens “Parliamentary and Governing Agreement” commits to many of these. The ACT government will phase out fossil-fuel gas by 2045 at the latest. We will transition our buildings and transport to zero-emissions. We need to deliver all this in a hostile setting with a federal government that won’t set climate targets and that is actively pouring public funds into blocking us nationally.

Our work builds on the world-leading climate action we secured with our ongoing Greens influence in ACT government. Our power-sharing agreements gave Canberra 100 per cent renewable electricity, legislated climate targets and renewable-powered light rail (this last now partially subsidised by a formerly-opposed federal government).

Can we keep achieving real action on the climate? I’m confident we can because we’ve already begun. We’ll break new ground with an all-electric, renewable powered Molonglo commercial centre. We’ve started disconnecting gas so we can have all-electric suburbs in Whitlam and Jacka. We’ve introduced no-interest loans and two years’ free registration for electric vehicles, and already seen a leap in registrations. We’ve become a founding member on green hydrogen certification.

The ACT Greens also campaigned hard on biodiversity. I’m a committed environmentalist, but like every other Canberran, I gained new appreciation for our wildlife during the Black Summer. It’s more important than ever that we preserve habitat and make more space in our city for native birds, animals and plants.

That’s why our parliamentary agreement contains 20 measures to protect biodiversity. We’ll limit new housing development so that 70 per cent remains within Canberra’s existing urban footprint, preserving our surrounding bushland. We’ll work towards 30 per cent urban tree canopy across Canberra with new legislation and planning, supported by the “Urban Forest Strategy” that will see thousands of trees planted over the next four years. We’ll investigate legislating the right to a healthy environment. We’ll protect remnant grasslands, woodlands and waterways, introduce ACT-wide cat containment and wildlife protection, increase funding for land management, establish wildlife corridors, manage weeds and invasive species and support indigenous land management.

We’ve already begun delivering these. We have legislated our cat-containment plan. We’ve listed Indian myna birds as a pest species and announced measures to protect threatened species such as Swift parrots and Grassland Earless Dragons. We’ve delivered long-term, reliable and increased funding to landcare and community environment groups, who do so much volunteer work protecting our biodiversity. We’ve funded additional indigenous rangers. We’ve advocated for stronger standards in national environment laws. We’ve supported community campaigns, such as protecting Lawson grasslands.

In the time since being elected, Greens Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti; Greens Emissions Reduction & Water Minister Shane Rattenbury; my Greens colleagues and I have made 20 climate announcements and 13 biodiversity protection announcements. Many were Australian firsts.

I’m new to politics, so I’m delighted we’ve gone into this term with a running start that builds on Greens’ work from previous assemblies. We won six seats, but it would be unrealistic to assume in a 25-seat Assembly, we will get everything we want. We certainly can’t control every individual decision that happens in our city. But we have a vision and we’re pulling the government closer to it every day.

We have set high standards. Mr Costigan is right to hold us to them. But he should not misinform the public about what we have achieved so far.

Jo Clay is the ACT Greens spokesperson for Transport, Active Travel, Parks and Conservation, Animal Welfare, Arts and Culture, Circular Economy, Science and Women.

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6 Responses to Greens have ‘never wavered’ on biodiversity

Palmerston's Lament says: September 15, 2021 at 10:05 am

I sigh when I read “we won six seats but cannot do anything” type comments. The Greens hold the balance of power because of a protest vote against the ALP that did not flow towards the Liberals. This election result was the, emphasis THE, opportunity for The Greens to show they were worth the effort and would be able to act as a check and balance to Barr’s excesses.

If we only get the same platitudes, redirection and lack of accountability from this crop of elected individuals, then there will be another protest vote in 3 years time.

Here is a revolutionary thought. Tear up the 100 point agreement that binds you tooth and nail to the ALP. Act as a single party of influence and vote on what is good for the community.

This is your chance for greatness. Will you choose it over mediocrity and the sugar hit of allocated power?

Reply
Steven Hoy says: September 16, 2021 at 9:26 am

Thank you Jo.

I voted for the Greens because I feel deeply about the environment – not as a protest vote against the ALP. I think many voters feel the same way and so appreciate all you have achieved in the ACT.

Jo noted that the Greens won six seats but cannot do everything (not cannot do ‘anything’). That’s being realistic, which I also like to hear. I hope the Greens can also partner with Labor federally after the next election and transition us nationally to a clean energy future.

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Palmerston's Lament says: September 17, 2021 at 8:31 am

Politics is about compromise. If you hold the balance of power, such as the Greens do currently, they do not need to be beholden to any other party. Rather, on a case by case basis, they can negotiate with either the ALP or the Liberals to achieve the best possible outcome.

Again, this negotiation is something that can and should occur on a case by case basis. It does however come at a cost. Ministerial titles for a start.

But what price democracy?

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Martin says: September 19, 2021 at 12:19 am

I have not yet read Paul Costigan’s opinion piece but Jo Clay’s response all sounds very reasonable and proactive to me, so it is good she has responded to him. After the substantial vote of support the ACT Greens received from the electorate, as a party they discussed how best they should proceed, either remain outside the government or work within it, noting “politics is all about compromise”. They decided on the latter, and I think that was the best choice for Canberra. It means they can show the electorate what additional Greens ministers can actually achieve in a combined government and can continue the earlier good work in partnership to make the ACT one of the showcases for what can be achieved with environmental sustainability initiatives. The ACT Liberals are welcome to decide to be “a single party of influence” in opposition or perhaps they could forge an agreement with the ALP and Greens to work together after the next election for the common good of the electorate, compromising where needed on their respective positions! ACT Liberals certainly have MLA’s that could make a good contribution to government as well and who, unlike their Federal counterparts, give some indication of a commitment to the environment.

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Molonglo Valley lament says: September 20, 2021 at 11:22 am

Jo Clay’s response would be reasonable – but for the reality of what is happening in the ACT. The Greens have stood by while ACT Labor has marched on with its agenda of turning each green space into flats. The reference to the Molonglo commercial centre is particularly farcical as this area remains a cow paddock. No doubt the failure to provide services for Molonglo Valley residents will be put down to COVID, but the real issue is a lack of commitment from the Labor-Greens Government.
The Molonglo Valley was previously represented by an active Greens MLA who seemed to care for the area and advocated strongly on planning issues. However, since the last election the new Greens MLA for this area fhas been anonymous and seems happy to allow Labor to do whatever they want. Of course, she is one of those who is a Minister in the current Government. Her portfolio and her 30 pieces of silver no doubt keep her too busy to take an interest in local affairs.

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John Bell says: September 23, 2021 at 5:43 pm

I am really disappointed with Jo’s position on light rail. Compared with electric buses, light rail has a much bigger environmental impact. This is because of all the carbon dioxide generated in making the steel rails and the cement used in the concrete base. Electric buses also run on renewable electricity. Putting electric buses on the Light Rail Stage 2 route would also cost less than one tenth the price.

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