Canberrans living on low incomes are once again being hardest hit by an increase in fossil fuel gas prices. This increase underscores the importance of centring equity outcomes and impacts throughout the ACT Government’s commitment to phase out fossil fuel gas by 2045 through electrifying Canberra over the next two decades.
Inclusive climate action presents an opportunity to ensure that low-income households and other disadvantaged groups have access to clean, dependable and affordable energy. These opportunities are detailed in “A Just and Inclusive Gas Transition in the ACT” released today by the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS).
ACTCOSS Interim CEO Dr Gemma Killen said: “Climate change is a social justice issue. Globally and within our own community, disadvantaged groups are more likely to be negatively impacted by climate change.
“This report highlights the need for equity to be front and centre of phasing out fossil-fuel gas and the pathway to electrification. Climate action through mitigation and adaptation measures must not entrench or exacerbate disadvantage – instead, climate action should aim to reduce poverty and inequality and improve wellbeing.
“A poorly targeted, trickle down transition will disproportionately benefit higher-income households, widen inequality and exacerbate poverty in the ACT.”
“A Just and Inclusive Gas Transition in the ACT” shows that in the ACT:
- Over the last five years, household gas prices have increased by 24%
- Gas prices will rise by another 19% over the next seven years
- Electricity prices increased by 28% over the last five years
- More than 130,000 households and businesses currently rely on gas connections
- 30% of private dwellings are rented and tenants face higher barriers to transitioning away from gas
- Low-income households face a ‘poverty premium’ that prevents them from accessing significant long-term energy savings
- Higher income households disproportionately benefit from ACT Government clean energy incentive schemes
Energy Consumers Australia CEO Lynne Gallagher said the report, which was part of the ACT Energised Consumers Project funded by ECA’s Grants Program, highlighted the need for governments to prioritise equity when planning for energy transition.
“Access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy is something we all have a right to, regardless of our financial circumstances or backgrounds.
“ECA, through its Grants Program, is pleased to support consumer-focused advocacy projects that seek to ensure a just energy transition because failing to consider diversity and equity in our planning will only exacerbate poverty and inequality in our society. It’s important that we get this right,” Ms Gallagher said.
Care Financial CEO Carmel Franklin said: “As more people transition away from fossil fuel gas use in coming years, those who are unable to do so will pay more and face increasing utility hardship. These are people already experiencing significant disadvantage. It is essential that there is a commitment by Government and Industry to a fair and inclusive energy transition – to minimise the risk of those most vulnerable in our community being left behind.”
Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn CEO Lucy Hohnen said: “In one of the most expensive cities in Australia to live, we are concerned that this price increase will only drive people to seek financial support from organisations like Vinnies. We already receive calls from people who in times past would not have needed this type of support from organisations like ours. The increases in living expenses across the board means that any increase in energy costs will drive more people to the edge.”