After a horrific summer of bushfires where the climate crisis was thick in the air, Canberrans’ concern about our climate and environment has never been greater.
As we head to the polls on 17 October, it seems that the old parties have picked up on the real concerns of our community. Even the Canberra Liberals, who through this last Assembly term have ridiculed student climate strikers and voted against energy efficiency programs for low-income households, have announced a plan for kindy kids to plant trees.
So it is easy to see why the upcoming election has been branded the ‘Trees Election’.
But it is clear that the community knows that the environmental challenges our city, our nation and our globe are facing will not be solved by trees alone. We need decisions and actions now that will protect our biodiversity too, and see long-term investment in our living infrastructure. Trees are an important part of this, but they’re certainly not the only part.
After being devastated by climate change, habitat loss and bushfires, Canberra’s precious natural environment needs a comprehensive plan to protect and restore it. This is vital if we are to remain the Bush Capital and ensure that this city remains livable in a changing climate.
Canberra needs a better ‘normal’, where there is sustained climate action and the ACT is a place where our trees, plants, animals and ecosystems can thrive.
Earlier this week the ACT Greens announced a $53 million Repairing the Land conservation plan which will expand Canberra’s wetlands, look after our bush and support our ecosystems.
This is about a real environment plan, one that sees investment in more green spaces, creating neighbourhood forests, protecting existing trees – especially those with habitat hollows, and encouraging more rooftop and vertical gardens.
The policy moves beyond short-term election promises to a long-term plan to restore, strengthen and better manage the ACT’s unique ecosystems far into the future.
It’s about readying our city for our new climate reality. We must act now to protect our environment and address the heat island effect, and with the same boldness and decisiveness as we have the COVID-19 crisis.
Now is the time to not only plant the seeds of climate action but also to put in place the strategy to continue to nurture our landscape as it adapts to the changing climate. Our country needs it and so does our community, so we can have biodiversity in our future.
Rebecca Vassarotti is an ACT Greens candidate for Kurrajong in the upcoming Territory election.