Climate Change & Mark McGowan

picture source: ABC news

Whilst some West Australians are criticising our Prime Minister for his Liberal government’s handling on climate change, they should also take the opportunity to focus on the McGowan State Labor government.

If it is to be accepted that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the dominant cause, then the State government is asleep at the wheel. At best they have committed to the federal government’s 26%-28% reduction target by 2030, which illustrates the federal government are the ones driving change, not the State.

Yet what is the State doing to assist in this reduction? So far they have rejected attempts by the Environmental Protection Authority to introduce tougher measures for new major resource projects. This is despite the Federal government’s March 2018 Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory stating national greenhouse gas emissions increases were “mainly driven by LNG production for export”. Fast forward to latest available report, March 2019, and the reason for the increase is again “primarily due to increased LNG exports”.

This isn’t a discussion on whether climate change concerns should trump industry and commerce,  but it begs the question on why the State government continues to allow the Gorgon LNG project to not bury the carbon emissions as originally planned, and why they are not insisting on more robust carbon mitigation measures for new projects.

Of far greater concern to me is the State governments proven disregard for trees. There are few simpler steps in helping to address climate change than planting more trees and protecting the existing tree stock.

Not only do trees offer an immeasurable number of benefits to the environment and society, but specifically they reduce electricity consumption via their cooling effects through shade and evapo-transpiration. And as trees grow, they help counter climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in the trees and soil, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Trees are carbon sponges.

A recent study published in the journal Science states “the restoration of trees remains among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation”. Yet what is our State government doing? Next to nothing I’m afraid.

The government departments they manage show a callous disregard to trees. Main Roads appear to love nothing more than cutting down mature trees, and paving large median strips instead of planting trees. Meanwhile, the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage neuter any local government attempts to protect trees. This was recently illustrated by a Development Assessment Panel giving a developer authority to cut down trees on public land.  The West Australian Planning Commission continue to act negligently in not placing a greater emphasis on tree retention within their Model Scheme Text which forms a basis for all local government Town Planning Schemes.

Concerned West Australians should take their gaze off Scott Morrison and place it firmly on Mark McGowan.