Page 4077 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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The ACT has its own particular characteristics that tend to exacerbate our footprint. Firstly, Canberrans are the most affluent people in the country, having the highest mean household income of all Australian states. According to 2009 ABS data, it was 28 per cent higher than the Australian average. Moreover, in the last 10 years this trend has seen major increases. I note that the inquiry into ecological carrying capacity discussion paper notes that in the ACT there is a strong correlation between increasing wealth and increasing greenhouse pollution and water use.

In relation to climate change and energy-based emissions, the ACT has the highest per capita emissions of all Australian states and territories for non-residential energy use and, along with Victoria, it also has the highest per capita emissions for residential energy use.

Another important issue to raise is international inequity. This is a major and vexed issue. The continuing and growing divide between the rich and the poor is insidious and pervasive. I do not think I need to go into how inequity both drives and is a consequence of so many of the previously listed issues such as climate change, population growth, forest clearance, to name a few.

It is not just the Greens talking about the imperative to reduce our ecological footprint but others are too. Indeed, the ACT government’s measuringourprogress website shows the ecological footprint is worsening. I note that Regional Development Australia are also calling for this, as noted in their very recently released ACT strategic regional plan 2011-12 where climate change, peak oil, population growth and demographic change are all noted as posing planning stresses.

So the question is: how can the ACT reduce its footprint? The ACT government has said that it is committed to sustainability as a philosophy underpinning all of its work and is taking a broad and comprehensive approach. The government’s approach uses the triple bottom line that takes into account economic, environmental and social aspects. This is a highly laudable aspiration but what has been put in place?

On a positive note, the government has delivered legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with a 40 per cent target for 2020, 80 per cent by 2050, and carbon neutral by 2060. On a less positive note, we are still waiting for the government’s sustainable energy policy, the weathering the change action plan 2, the sustainable waste strategy and the sustainable transport action plan. It is incredible that the government has thus far passed such momentous legislation yet government operations, policies, programs and spending continue as business as usual.

The ACT Greens have proposed a large number of initiatives which, if implemented, will significantly reduce the ACT’s ecological footprint. We hope that the government will take more notice of our proposals in light of the arguments we make here today concerning the ACT’s ecological footprint and, in doing so, make a real commitment towards a footprint reduction. And to put the policies in context, they strongly resonate with what the government has had to say in the submission on carrying capacity about reducing the ACT’s footprint. For example, the government said in its submission:

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