The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today welcomed proposed legislation to transition the ACT away from its reliance on natural gas saying the new Bill provides certainty and is a positive step towards climate change mitigation.
In its submission to the Inquiry into the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Natural Gas Transition) Amendment Bill 2022, ACTCOSS also welcomed the ending of gas connections to new developments and suburbs to prevent people being left stranded on an ageing and increasingly expensive gas network.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “ACTCOSS welcomes this important legislation. Gas consumers have faced uncertainty around Canberra’s energy transition. The ACT has a high reliance on gas with more than 130,000 households and businesses connected to the gas network. This Bill gives clear timeframes.
“However, the transition Bill is only one part of the story. The ACT Government must continually review and improve its roadmap to net zero emissions ensuring that it emphasises the needs of vulnerable communities and people on low incomes.
Dr Campbell said that the ACT Government needed to ensure that the Territory’s energy transition strategy is just, fair and inclusive.
“Too often supports for energy transition, including through rebates and incentive programs, disproportionately help people on higher incomes. These policies risk shutting out those who need support the most, and leads to further entrenchment of disadvantage and inequality.”
ACTCOSS has welcomed the ACT Government’s efforts to establish minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes as an important social justice measure but has called for much more to be done.
“Social housing tenants, private renters, people on low incomes and other groups facing disadvantage must be prioritised to access clean, dependent and affordable energy including rooftop solar, battery storage and energy efficient and healthy homes.
“In the transition, the ACT Government must also be transparent in sharing with the community findings on the costs and benefits of the various options for achieving net zero emissions. Canberrans on low incomes spend a greater portion of their income on energy bills and are most likely to be impacted by any cost increase associated with the transition.
“As part of protecting consumers, ACTCOSS has continually called for the ACT Government to ensure concessions, including energy concessions are adequate and targeted. This should include adjusting the Utilities Concession in line with increases in costs of electricity, gas and water and sewerage services for low-income households.
“The ACT Government must also work with the community to understand the cultural implications of the transition away from gas. Gas cooking is a key cultural element of many Canberran’s lives and business. The transition must respond to this with fit for purpose and affordable solutions,” Dr Campbell said.
Dr Campbell said that 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.
“We must not miss this opportunity – action on climate change can also contribute to reducing poverty and inequality and improving wellbeing for all Canberrans,” Dr Campbell concluded.
If you are struggling to cover the cost of your utilities bills you should contact your retailer. You can also find more advice on supports for low-income households on the ACT government website: https://www.climatechoices.act.gov.au/policy-programs/low-income-household-program