Policies/Environment

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Official Party Document
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Environment

Climate change and energy

While the environment is perpetually changing, there is a risk that enormous changes imposed in a very short period of time can destabilise our planet's ecology. Greenhouse gas emissions are one such risk which urgently needs to be addressed. However, a well considered climate policy can do more than simply reduce risk. Successful climate change policy can support useful technological progress and foster improvements in Australia's dysfunctional energy market.

Human activity has increased the atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gases to levels not seen for many hundreds of thousands of years, and the rise is accelerating.

Fossil fuels do not merely generate greenhouse gases: particulate air pollution from coal burning kills millions of people every year and generates massive volumes of toxic waste[1][2],[3].[4]. Replacement of fossil fuels with cleaner technology thus offers environmental and human benefits for the entire world. Australia could become a laboratory for this transition: already, domestic energy markets are approaching a “crossover point”, when prices for on-site energy generation and storage are falling below the price of centralised grid power.[5] Technological progress will soon allow consumers to become ‘prosumers’ – energy users capable of independently generating their own power. A decentralised market where self-generating consumers directly compete with utilities will be freer and more productive for everyone.

A few simple changes could bring this future closer. Resources currently allocated to paying polluters could be re-targeted towards "blue sky" research and unexplored climate solutions. Utilities could be deregulated so they can adopt leaner 'probabalistic' power models and offer new services such as trading platforms between distributed energy producers. Forms of nuclear energy which present no melt-down risk (such as emerging reactor models that mix coolant with fuel to make loss of coolant impossible) could be considered in light of science and evidence. Underlying it all, the existing GST on energy could be replaced with a carbon pricing regime to immediately reduce costs for clean power.

Pirate Party regards a fixed carbon price as important. Predictable pricing provides the certainty which long-term investment requires[6], and would create a mechanism for energy efficiency and innovation all across the economy. Environmental externalities represent a form of privatised profits and socialised losses, which a properly run economy should reject. Pirate Party Australia endorses existing climate policies in the absence of a more efficient alternative. However, a holistic price on carbon and measures to support technology and competition represent the best model for long-term improvement in our energy systems.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Enact measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and to zero net emissions by 2050.

  • Re-purpose the 'Climate Solutions Fund' to support 'blue sky' research into alternative climate solutions, such as carbon drawdown technology and food additives to reduce farm emissions.
  • Extend Clean Energy Finance Corporation loans to support community power start-up costs and grid connections.
  • Remove the GST on energy and substitute a carbon price based on the successful 2014-15 model.
  • Apply a price on exported carbon, set to $2 per tonne of thermal coal, to purchase carbon offsets through the UN clean development mechanism.
  • Remove waste levy exemptions currently applying to coal power.
  • Adopt current EU standards for vehicle fuel efficiency and energy efficiency in consumer goods and buildings.

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Land management and ecology

A healthy and vibrant ecosystem is crucial for our quality of life, and ultimately for our future on this planet. Sadly, Australia has among the worst extinction rates of any continent despite our low human population[7]. This partly reflects well-known problems with invasive species, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change[8]. Less well understood are the policy failures that have made these issues much harder to address.

Environmental work can take significant time and planning. Rewilding of degraded ecosystems is complex, requiring long-term active management to prevent new waves of invasive species from attacking vulnerable and plant and animal populations. Species restoration is similarly complex, often requiring vulnerable species to be protected in sanctuaries, or on islands and fenced-off peninsulas until their numbers can recover, with recovered populations serving as a base for gradual re-introductions across the wider ecosystem[9]. The short term funding cycle and regular cancellation of environmental programs make it difficult to achieve long-term progress in such complex and long-term work.

Pirate Party Australia believes a longer-term approach is needed. Rather than drip-feed funding year by year, environmental grants need to be scaled up to the challenge and provided over longer time-frames to enable proper planning and co-ordination. Pirate Party Australia would establish an ecology fund based the best scientific estimates of resourcing needs. The fund would be overseen by experts, and would have a mandate to provide long-term grants for scientific research and community-driven environmental work. Endowments should be set aside to support a permanent regional workforce to engage in large-scale rewilding and habitat restoration around Australia. Pirate Party Australia would also ensure that successful initiatives such as the Indigenous Rangers program are expanded and funded permanently, ending a cycle of insecurity and ensuring the cultural knowledge of our first people is properly valued and preserved.

For less than the the price of a new submarine fleet, Australia could ensure that our priceless ecology is restored to health and preserved for future generations. We simply need the political will to make it happen.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Implement a biodiversity strategy and long-term funding model.

  • Appoint an expert panel to estimate resource needs for an integrated set of environmental programs encompassing habitat restoration and large-scale 're-wilding', preservation of endangered species, scientific research including 'blue sky' initiatives, specific needs for areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, and other initiatives driven by communities and conservation groups.
    • New responsibilities would also include strategic regional planning and reporting on national environmental performance. The commission would also develop enforceable national, regional, threat abatement and species level conservation plans.
  • Replace year-to-year grants with a 20 year funding model, with options to top-up in the future.
  • Establish an endowment to expand and permanently fund the Indigenous Rangers Program.

Strengthen existing environmental protections.

  • Expand the environmental oversight of the federal government to cover mining approvals, water resources, protected areas, land clearing, climate change and air pollution.
  • Establish an Environmental Protection Authority with independent statutory status to areas overseeing environmental approvals, inquiries, monitoring, compliance and enforcement.
  • Increase biosecurity funding by $20 million each year to prevent more invasive species from entering the country.
  • Grant farmers an explicit right to refuse exploitation of coal and coal seam gas deposits on land they own.
  • Expand and improve national parks.
    • Increase national park thresholds to cover 15% of land in Australia, with a representative sample of at least 80% of regional ecosystems protected in each bio-region.
    • Review national park legislation and remove restrictions on volunteerism and community engagement in improving parks.
    • Amend Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to insert specific requirements for accountability and monitoring of Recovery Plans.

Disaster Relief Fund

Create a disaster relief fund to support those affected by climate change, particularly farmers, and to enable a timely response to any nationally declared disaster by the Prime Minister.

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Animal welfare

The Pirate Party is opposed to animal abuse and believes our laws should be informed by scientific research, which demonstrates the capacity of animals to feel emotion and pain.[10] Better public understanding and greater transparency have been crucial to improvements in animal welfare to date, and we believe in the further application of these principles. Accordingly, we support efforts to create an independent statutory authority to conduct research and improve animal welfare outcomes. Such a body will have a significant role to play in addressing deep issues in areas such as live cattle exports, puppy farming, and greyhound racing.

There also need to be serious efforts to address the vast and systemic animal abuse in Australia's factory farms. Pirate Party Australia will do all it can to ensure that food production in Australia is conducted with less cruelty in future. A stronger ability to investigate animal abuse—combined with a general lifting in legislative standards—offer the best chance for a holistic improvement in animal welfare in factory farms and other areas.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Foster improvements in animal welfare

  • Support existing proposals to form an Independent Office of Animal Welfare (IOAW).
    • The IOAW authority will be dedicated to animal welfare issues, with enforcement powers and a mandate to adopt a scientific approach.
    • The authority will have statutory independence to prevent political and commercial interference.
  • Improve legislation applying to animal product industries.
    • Ban the use of sow stalls.
    • Codify a legal requirement for all abattoirs to stun animals prior to slaughter.
    • Provide whistleblower protection for persons who expose animal abuse at factory farms and other facilities.
    • Ensure transparent and clear labeling of all animal based products, with "free range" label permitted only when:
      • Independent audits of sanitary and welfare conditions are allowed.
      • For birds, indoor stocking density is at a maximum level of 28 kg of live birds per sq metre (35 kg for turkeys), with unrestricted access to an outdoor range with maximum of 1500 birds per hectare, no use of growth promoters, no mutilations (beak trimming, toe trimming, de-snooding).
      • For pigs and cattle, unrestricted access to soil and pasture and no use of farrowing crates, sow stalls, feedlots, tail docking, teeth clipping and nose ringing.
  • Ban cosmetics testing on animals
  • Ban 'puppy farming' and unregulated high-volume dog breeding.

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References

  1. Edis,Brown coal imposes $800 million health cost annually on Victorians,Business Spectator, 20 April 2015,http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2015/4/20/science-environment/brown-coal-imposes-800m-health-cost-annually-victorians-0(Accessed 22 April 2015)
  2. Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes, 'The Critical Decade 2013: Climate Change Science, Risks and Responses' (Report, Climate Commission, 2013) 86–87.
  3. ExternE, 'Externalities of Energy: Extension of accounting framework and Policy Applications' (Final technical report, ExternE, 2005) 35, 39; Doctors for the Environment Australia, 'How coal burns Australia: The true cost of burning coal' (Report, Doctors for the Environment Australia, 2013) 2–4; Ruth Colagiuri, Johanne Cochrane and Seham Girgis, Health and Sustainability Unit, The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders, The University of Sydney, 'Health and Social Harms of Coal Mining in Local Communities' (Report, Beyond Zero Emissions, 2012) 11-12, 32.
  4. Wendy Wilson, Travis Leipzig and Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel, 'Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity' (Report, River Network, 2012) 14.
  5. Vorrath, Energy storage to reach cost 'holy grail', mass adoption in 5 years, March 2015, http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/energy-storage-to-reach-cost-holy-grail-mass-adoption-in-5-years-18383 (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  6. Department of the Treasury (Cth), Strong Growth, Low Pollution: Modelling a Carbon Price (2011) 91; Sam Meng, Mahinda Siriwardana and Judith McNeill, 'The Environmental and Economic Impact of the Carbon Tax in Australia' (2013) 54(3) Journal of Environmental and Resources Economics 313, 321–322.
  7. Fact check: Does Australia have one of the 'highest loss of species anywhere in the world'?, 4 March 2016, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-19/fact-check-does-australia-have-one-of-the-highest-extinction/6691026
  8. Lexi Metherell, 7 May 2019, One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns, and we are mostly to blame, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-06/biggest-global-assessment-of-biodiversity-sounds-dire-warnings/11082940
  9. https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/51b0e2d4-50ae-49b5-8317-081c6afb3117/files/ts-strategy.pdf
  10. Scruton, R., & Tyler, A. (2001). "Debate: Do animals have rights?", The Ecologist, 31(2), Pages 20-23.