Friday, April 9, 2010

Climate and energy policies fuel fire danger

Following Karen Kissane's piece on Black Saturday, An appetite for revenge, The Age has today published my letter (scroll to "Policies fuel danger") arguing that, amid scrutiny of the chaos of failures during the fires, we should not lose sight of the urgent necessity for better climate and energy policies to reduce long-term bushfire risk.

At present, Christine Nixon appears to be the focal point of blame, when in fact there were so many failures in a range of critical areas. For that reason climate and energy policy are at risk of disappearing from the range of options we have to minimise bushfire risk in Victoria. The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has the power, and the moral obligation, to address this in its final report.

Here's the submitted version of my letter that was only very slightly edited in the paper:
Karen Kissane points to such an incoherent dispersal of accountability for the failures on Black Saturday that the blame must chiefly lie with the Victorian Government itself. That conclusion is based not only on the Government being ultimately accountable for emergency management, but on the inclusion of the emergency services minister in the list of those missing when their support and leadership were most needed.

Unfortunately, the same compartmentalised thinking being used to cover backsides is also at play in the broad examination of the causes of the fires. The same Government so sorely lacking in emergency management can blithely continue with energy and climate policies that will fuel more frequent and severe bushfires in Victoria. This has been pointed out by the firefighters themselves, and is supported by research from the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre.

Unless the Victorian Government frames energy and climate policy to reduce long-term bushfire risk, a major driver of future bushfire events will continue to be lost among what should rightfully be seen as a chaos of failures in a multitude of critical areas.
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