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Budget 2022 delivers hope for climate crisis: 'Rome wasn't built in a day'

New spending to help the Great Barrier Reef has been announced in the government's budget. Source: AAP
New spending to help the Great Barrier Reef has been announced in the Budget. (Source: AAP)

Much-needed funding to tackle the climate crisis has been renewed in Labor's first federal budget in nine years.

After trawling through the Albanese Government's response to tackling global warming, Climate Council economist Nicki Hutley said what she read was "encouraging".

"I think we’re assured that we're heading in the right direction. There's still a lot more work to do - a lot more - but we're getting there," she told Yahoo Finance.

"Rome wasn't built in a day. And this is encouraging."

What's included in the Budget?

A key component in Treasurer Jim Chalmers Budget is a $20 billion fund to tackle energy transmission.

"After nearly 10 frustrating years, and more than 20 failed energy policies, Australia now has a government that understands the generational and economic imperative of acting on climate change," Chalmers told Parliament during his Budget speech.

Acknowledging ongoing natural disasters, which continue to escalate around Australia, the Budget includes funding to coordinate 5,000 volunteers when future disasters strike.

Importantly, it incorporates measures to both mitigate the climate crisis and respond to worsening natural disasters.

While there was no unexpected spending in this "bread and butter" Budget, some other key spending measures include:

  • $1.2 billion to help the Great Barrier Reef

  • $300 million for community batteries and solar banks

  • $42 million to restore the Climate Change Authority

  • $91 million to improve local waterways

  • $224 million to help threatened species and places

Environment Minister says Budget delivers 'strong action'

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the Budget "is a down payment on strong action" and sets up the country for a better future.

The Budget included funding for a number of key promises to stop extinctions and improve the health of waterways.

“We recognise that the environment needs a combination of targeted spending and law reform – which this budget delivers on," Chalmers said.

“We are working on significant legislative reform in 2023, which will enable us to better protect, manage and conserve our environment into the future.”

Conservationist says budget lacks 'meat' to tackle climate crisis

Non-profit Australian Conservation said the Budget turned around "a decade of savage cuts", but said the Commonwealth needed to do much more to adequately fund nature protection.

Its chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said using public money to fund fossil fuel projects "continues to undermine good work on renewable energy and nature protection".

Greenpeace largely echoed these concerns, with gas campaigner Richard George saying while there have been “moves in the right direction”, he was “surprised” that billions in fossil fuel subsidies remain.

“The rhetoric is different, but the real meat of it is missing. They need to do a lot more if they’re to live up to the stronger words we’ve been hearing,” he told Yahoo Finance.

He is calling for an end to the billions of dollars given in fossil fuel subsidies and a windfall tax on gas profits, which he would like to see invested into “turbo-charging” the shift towards renewables.

“Anything less than that is window dressing. It can look good, it can feel good but it’s not going to address the underlying problems,” he said.

More work to be done on climate, economist says

Hutley's response to the Budget is markedly different to her description of the Morrison government's March Budget, which she said left her "gobsmacked".

More Budget news:

Her key concern was that it hadn't included any “meaningful” funding to tackle the climate crisis.

While she welcomed the new commitments to climate change, she added a word of caution.

"[Today's Budget] is really welcome. And it's just such a refreshing change from nine years of eroding anything that we were doing on climate," she said.

"But it's really important that Australians and their Government don't get complacent on the issue.

"There's a lot more work to be done, and we have to aim higher, and go harder.

"That's going to be part of the conversation we have around where we spend our money in the coming months and years.

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