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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