September 7, 2023
As Australia faces another season of drought, extreme heat and catastrophic fires, Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) is calling on the Federal Government to pause all new coal and gas approvals, including expansions, until it reforms, as promised, the existing environmental regulatory framework and establishes a new national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Nearly a year ago, Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek MP, announced the establishment of a new EPA in response to a review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act which found the Act was ineffective and not fit to address current or future environmental challenges. A public consultation period concerning those reforms is due to start this year.
BSCA believes a robust regulatory framework is critical in ensuring high carbon emitting fossil fuel projects are assessed properly for their climate impact, and not just given the green light. Fossil fuel projects pollute our environment and drive climate change, creating extreme weather events that put our communities at risk from intense bushfires like the Black Summer fires of 2019-2020.
With fire authorities, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Bureau of Meteorology all predicting a return to extreme heat and drought this spring and summer, federal and state governments must be doing everything they can to protect our communities from more frequent and intense climate-fueled bushfires.
Serena Joyner, CEO of BSCA, co-founder of Resilient Blue Mountains and wife of a volunteer firefighter, said: “Those of us on the frontline of past bushfires have been watching the recent fires across the northern hemisphere with horror. Now as our summer approaches the worrying predictions from fire authorities and warnings of a possible El Nino are really scaring people. It wasn't that long ago that the catastrophic Black Summer fires of 2019-20 devastated communities up and down the East Coast of Australia - and many people are still struggling with the financial and bureaucratic burden of rebuilding.
“The scale and intensity of those terrible fires will become the norm unless we reduce emissions this decade. The Federal Government must not make the situation worse. All new coal and gas project approvals must be paused while the right regulatory framework is put in place that ensures our communities and the places they love are protected.”
Jann Gilbert, from Mallacoota on the NSW South Coast, said: “Three-and-a-half years after losing my home in the Black Summer fires I’ve finally moved into my rebuilt house. I should feel safe, but I don’t.
“Staring down the barrel of the same conditions that produced Black Summer, I’ve made the difficult decision to sell and move from Mallacoota. We need real action on climate change and that means investing in renewable energy and reducing emissions as quickly as possible. Until we have that no Australian will be safe from these worsening fires.”
This week members of BSCA travelled from Queensland, Victoria and NSW to attend meetings in Canberra with MPs and Senators from across the political spectrum - asking them to support a pause in fossil fuel approval until Australia's flawed environmental assessment laws are reformed.
“If we know the system isn’t up to scratch, it just makes sense to stop making the problem worse,” Ms Joyner said. “That’s why we’ve launched a petition calling on the government to do what it has promised and pause approvals of polluting projects until the reforms are done.”
BSCA is asking for the Federal Government to:
- Pause new coal and gas approvals, including expansions, until Labor’s promised environmental reforms and the new EPA are in place.
- Ensure a climate trigger is included in the EPBC reforms, requiring thorough assessment of all such projects against their impact on climate.
- Take responsibility for progressing all 80 recommendations of the Bushfires Royal Commission, for coordination and monitoring of all measures, and facilitating faster implementation across federal and state/territory jurisdictions.
BSCA CEO: Serena Joyner - 0417 211 203
Media: Jan Chessell - 0481 955 564
About Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA)
BSCA is a nonpartisan community organisation. We are people who have been threatened by fire: some of us lost our homes, some of us are firefighters, some of us are their families and neighbours. We have members across the country, especially from bushfire impacted regions along the east coast.
In 2021 we took the NSW Environment Protection Authority to court challenging them on their lack of action on climate change and won. Our landmark win in the NSW Land and Environment Court was the first time that an Australian Court ordered a government to take meaningful action on climate change.