Climate change: a few dollars goes a long way

Published: 23rd April 2019

Amid the noisy debate about who is profiting from water buybacks, so-called gaffes about policy detail and the ongoing argument over the benefits or otherwise of opening up the Galilee Basin to coal mining, some issues in this election are just not getting the attention they deserve.

With Labor leader Bill Shorten in north Queensland over the next couple of days, it’s timely to look at one of those issues. Climate change needs no leg up in terms of its presence in this election campaign. But the arguments over Adani have tended to focus on how this development would affect the nation’s obligations to reduce emissions to stop climate change happening. While this might play out well on the national stage, it has its problems at the local level, where attention to climate change is naturally less about the big picture and more about adapting to the impacts it will have on house prices, jobs and the cost of living.

Mr Shorten has said he will take back the $443 million the Coalition government granted to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation last year. He says he will take advice on where the money should be invested.

Well, here’s some advice. Local councils in Queensland are efficient and effective in their use of public money to pursue a range of actions on behalf of their communities. Reef protection is one of these. Councils help make sure the range of reef protection regulations covering activities as diverse of sewerage treatment to aquaculture are being met. It may not be the sort of stuff that grabs headlines but it matters a whole lot to the future health of the reef. 

And cost? A lot less than $443 million. In fact, an investment in $57 million on water quality management is all councils are asking for regarding their stewardship of the Reef at this federal election campaign.

In other areas to do with combatting climate change, like eradicating pests and weeds and biosecurity, the ambitions of local government are modest in dollar terms but full of potential.

Time for Bill Shorten, Scott Morrison and the parties they lead to take note of local government’s role in battling climate change.