The federal government has set aside billions of dollars to deal with the consequences of climate change, but there's nothing in the budget to address its cause, observers say.
Tuesday's federal budget confirmed a $1 billion commitment to protect the Great Barrier Reef, along with funding for research and recycling programs as part of an overall $2.3 billion sector spend.
The Climate Council said the government's proposed outlay on climate change initiatives is indefensible in the face of the escalating threats Australia is facing.
"Their own documents are showing that climate spending - as a percentage of total budget spending - is just 0.3 per cent for this year and the next two years," economist and Climate Council councillor Nicki Hutley said.
"Then it falls to 0.2 per cent which is just totally inadequate and unconscionable."
At the same time she said the budget delivered significant funding to accelerate polluting hydrogen and gas projects and billions of dollars to deal with disasters like the recent floods that are predicted to become more frequent and severe as the climate continues to warm.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg expects recovery from the recent NSW and Queensland floods will cost more than $6 billion in support payments for families, industries, and communities.
"If this is an election budget it has failed on this key issue of dealing with climate change, which we know increasing parts of the electorate are concerned with, including in regional seats around NSW and Queensland," Ms Hutley said.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said the budget was more lip service for the environment, treating nature like an optional extra.
"While the government has allocated $50 million for koala conservation, it's loaned ... $175 million, to the Olive Downs coal mine in central Queensland and approved the clearing of around 5000 hectares of koala habitat at the mine site," foundation spokesperson Matt Rose said.
He welcomed the $1 billion spend on Great Barrier Reef conservation over the next nine years but said it would amount to nothing without meaningful action on climate change.
There were some welcome initiatives such as $636 million over six years to expand the indigenous rangers program, and $50 million for the conservation of koalas, which have just been listed as an endangered species.
But Mr Rose said there was nothing near what is required to address habitat loss and species decline documented in the Samuel review of Australia's environmental protection laws last year.
That review found the environment was suffering from 20 years of government failures to improve protection systems, and that Australia was on a trajectory of environmental decline.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the budget delivered more than $2.3 billion in additional measures to address plastic pollution and help threatened species and the reef among other things.
"We continue to invest in the delivery of practical environmental outcomes, from a billion-dollar transformation of our waste and recycling industry to funding for environment restoration and our billion-dollar investment in supporting the future of the Great Barrier Reef," she said.
The budget also confirms more than $800 million for research and exploration in Antarctica.
Australian Associated Press
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