Bushfire survivors ask government to pause all new coal and gas projects

WITH another season of drought, extreme heat and catastrophic fires potentially on the horizon, 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 the existing environmental regulatory framework and establishes a new national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 2022 Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek 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.

Fossil fuel projects have been shown to pollute the 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, BSCA believe federal and state governments must be doing everything they can to protect communities from more frequent and intense climate-fueled bushfires.

“Those of us on the frontline of past bushfires have been watching the recent fires across the northern hemisphere with horror,” said Serena Joyner, CEO of BSCA.

“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.”

Last 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 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.”

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