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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


Victoria’s bold emissions target could be a turning point. Now here’s what we have to do | Jono La Nauze

During the final weeks of the Victorian election campaign, Daniel Andrews took to wearing a State Electricity Commission jacket at press conferences, using it to highlight Labor’s flagship policy of supplying publicly owned renewable energy through a revived SEC.

It got a lot of airtime, that jacket, and the promise it represented – a return to an era when governments owned big energy assets and jobs were for life. The premier spruiked the idea in his victory speech, adding that greedy energy companies were leaving the industry and “goodbye to them”, while volunteers in red shirts chanted “S-E-C! S-E-C!” – surely one of the more obscure political chants in memory.

But for energy experts and veterans of Australia’s sometimes tumultuous climate debate, it’s not just the promise to revive the SEC that raised eyebrows when announced back in October, but the climate targets underneath it – the filling in the jacket, so to speak.

Along with promising to close all coal-fired power stations and replace them with renewable energy, Labor also pledged to cut carbon pollution by up to 80% by 2035.

This flew under the radar during the election campaign, but it’s actually among the most ambitious climate targets of any jurisdiction in the world. It’s worth outlining what it means for Victoria because achieving it would transform our society in profound ways.

By 2035 Victoria’s electricity grid would be almost entirely clean power. Anyone in Victoria could turn on a toaster or TV and know that the power was coming from renewable energy, even if the house didn’t have solar panels on the roof.

Our buildings will be much more energy efficient, with upgraded lighting and insulation. Super-efficient electrical appliances will have replaced old gas-burning heaters and hot-water systems, reducing toxic indoor air pollution. One in two cars on the road will be zero emission or electric.

These aren’t just thought bubbles. They’re based on a submission from Monash University’s Climateworks Centre to the government’s climate targets consultation, which modelled what reducing emissions by 75% to 80% in Victoria would actually look like.

The Andrews government will have a huge job ahead to achieve these targets. We’ll need to see substantial progress in the next four years across a range of areas.


To date, Victoria’s biggest emissions reductions have come from the electricity sector. We’ve made the easy gains, boosting rooftop solar and building large-scale windfarms in locations where there was existing transmissions capacity. But reaching very high levels of renewable energy will require significant upgrades to the grid.

Already we’re seeing tensions over some transmission routes, and the government must play a greater role to ensure that this infrastructure unlocks jobs in the regions and gathers broad community support, including the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations.

Social licence is crucial to the plan to close Victoria’s remaining coal-fired power stations. In the next four years the government will need to work with the Latrobe Valley community on a comprehensive transition plan, which must include rehabilitating the truly gargantuan holes in the ground left behind after a century of open-cut coalmining.

That brings us to gas – a key problem because more Victorian households rely on this fossil fuel for heating and hot water than in any other state. The government’s gas substitution roadmap sets the direction but is only the beginning, lacking the kind of detailed policy – or compelling incentives – needed to shift enough households off gas at the scale required. We’ll need to see a much bigger package before next year’s state budget because retrofitting so many homes will take many years.

Emissions from transport have been rising in Victoria, aside from a slight dip during the early Covid lockdowns. Andrews likes building train lines and removing level crossings, but he has no serious plan to electrify our car fleet or to make public transport a realistic option for millions of commuters locked out by antiquated bus and train routes. Given the electoral backlash Labor received in outer western metropolitan Melbourne, the government could consider a plan from University of Melbourne academics for a new zero-emissions bus network in the western suburbs.

Finally, Victoria’s wet green forests can store enormous amounts of carbon but logging them releases about 3m tonnes of pollution a year – the same as 700,000 cars on our roads. Stopping logging within the next term of government is one of the best ways for Victoria to meet its climate targets while protecting the unique plants and animals that make our state such a wonderful place to live.

In 20 years, when future generations look back on what was the turning point towards solving the climate crisis in Victoria, they might point to the promises made at the 2022 state election – beginning with the bold target that underpins everything.

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