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Environment, Political

Bushfire Survivors disappointed at lack of frontline community consultation as Federal Government kicks off environmental law reform

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action 3 mins read

November 2, 2023

 

As fires once again burn across the country, with more than 50 homes already lost and many more at risk, Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) is calling on the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, to stop excluding the views of communities already impacted by climate change as she looks to reform national environmental laws.

 

The 2019 review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), identified a lack of public trust in the existing environment law’s effectiveness in protecting our natural environment. BSCA believes the Federal Government’s closed door approach to consultation, which excludes community input, only exacerbates this concern.

 

Invited to contribute to the consultation process is the Minerals Council of Australia, the NSW Minerals Council and the Queensland Resources Council. While environmental groups are represented, there are no groups representing frontline communities.

 

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action CEO, Serena Joyner, said the Federal Government is falling short of its own stated objective of restoring public trust in environmental governance.

 

“The inclusion of mining lobbyists while excluding communities on the front-line of climate change, plus concerning reports that the current package doesn’t address climate impacts, points to a lack of serious intent to address climate change in these reforms or restore public trust in government decision-making.

 

“As people with direct experience of the impact of climate driven bushfires and the many complications and costs that come with it, we want a say in the reform process. If the law is poorly designed, our communities and others will pay the price.

 

BSCA has experience in legal reform to reduce climate emissions and hold governments, agencies and companies to account. In 2023 the NSW Environment Protection Agency was the first such agency in the country to introduce a climate policy, which it was required to do as a result of landmark court action taken by the organisation.

 

BSCA is calling for Minister Plibersek to:

  1. Initiate an urgent and comprehensive consultation process that prioritises transparency and engagement including online and in-person community briefings.
  2. Pause new coal and gas approvals (including expansions) until the Government’s EPBC reforms and the new EPA are established.
  3. Include consideration of climate within the EPBC reforms, requiring thorough assessment of new projects (including expansions) against their impact on climate.

BSCA expects Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Minister for Climate and Energy, Chris Bowen, and Minister Plibersek, to take their responsibility to Australian communities seriously and listen to their concerns about the impact of climate change on our environment, our homes and our communities. This is the critical decade to reduce emissions and make strong progress on meeting our net zero targets. 

 

BSCA’s petition can be found here.

 

For more information or interviews: 

Jan Chessell 0481 955 564

 

Note to editors:

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) is a non-partisan, community organisation made up of bushfire survivors, firefighters and their families working together to call on our leaders to take action on climate change. BSCA formed shortly after the Tathra and District fire in March 2018, and its founding members were all impacted by bushfires, including the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20, Blue Mountains in 2013, Black Saturday in 2009 and Canberra in 2003. 

 

BSCA has been at the cutting edge of legal reform to reduce climate emissions and hold governments, agencies and companies to account. In 2023 the NSW Environment Protection Agency was the first such agency in the country to introduce a climate policy, which it was required to do as a result of landmark court action taken by BSCA. 

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