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An additional $11 million for the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) is a welcome response to Australia’s worsening bushfire crisis, but its effectiveness is limited by the Federal Government’s continuing climate policy failures, said the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action.
The funding boost for NAFC, requested more than 12 months ago in a detailed business case submitted to the Federal Government by state and territory fire services, stated that more funds were urgently needed for large water bombing aircraft. The Federal Government had failed to increase funding support to states and territories since a dollar for dollar arrangement was agreed back in 2003.
Greg Mullins, former Commissioner of Fire & Rescue NSW, said: “This much-needed, albeit late, funding provides critical support to firefighting agencies as they face longer fire seasons and more dangerous conditions which have clearly been exacerbated by climate change.”
“As fire seasons overlap between states and territories and the Northern and Southern hemisphere, added capacity to lease more water-bombing aircraft will help agencies to keep communities safe.
“However this funding is just a stop-gap measure if the Federal Government maintains its pathetic response to climate change, driven by the burning of coal, oil, and gas.
“This government is still using dodgy accounting to meet its woefully inadequate 2030 climate targets, and has broadly refused to acknowledge that climate change has aggravated our current bushfire crisis. That’s just not good enough,” said Mr Mullins.
In addition to the funding boost for NAFC, ELCA also wants the Federal Government to examine a structured approach for the Australian Defence Force to support firefighting efforts and fund research into long-term adaptation measures to worsening extreme weather, among other recommendations.
Naomi Brown, former CEO of the peak council for fire and emergency services in Australia and New Zealand, said: “Current arrangements to use the military are essentially ad hoc, and a more structured approach is essential due to heightened extreme weather risks driven by climate change.”
Lee Johnson, former Queensland Fire & Emergency Service Commissioner, added: “The fingerprints of climate change are all over the horrific losses of life, property, and natural heritage Australians have suffered in this unprecedented bushfire season, and worse conditions are expected over the summer.”
“The government must tackle this crisis at the source. This starts with acknowledging that this is climate change, and phasing out fossil fuels to deliver urgent and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” added Johnson.
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