People in Ballarat can play a powerful part in campaigning for climate solutions to be a part of Victoria's COVID-19 recovery.
This is one the major takeaways from Ballarat's first virtual Green Drinks event held on Wednesday night.
Environment Victoria senior campaigner Taegan Edwards spoke about the front lines of climate campaigning in Victoria as part of the regular Ballarat public event.
She said waves of power had been brought to the climate movement in recent years with the School Strike for Climate and different groups of people including parents, students, doctors, farmers and bushfire survivors adding their voice.
"This powerful network of people is crucial to campaigns for Victoria to fulfill its potential to be a climate leader, by setting strong 2030 climate targets and making sure climate solutions are central to driving pandemic recovery efforts for our state," Ms Edwards said.
Ms Edwards became involved in grassroots climate action in 2008 when she started a community environment group in Richmond that advocated for the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station and a switch from coal to renewable energy.
There is going to be a lot of interest in what can create jobs right now and our state government is interested in talking about those being climate solutions focused.Taegan Edwards, Environment Victoria campaigner
She later moved to Sydney to manage community programs at not-for-profit organisation Solar Citizens, before taking up a campaigning role with Environment Victoria working to move the state beyond coal power.
Ms Edwards spoke to the Ballarat audience about how environmental campaigning had changed, with increasing emphasis on reducing emissions, in addition to building on the past 50 years of advocating for forest and land protection and saving rivers.
"For me I had a realisation that politicians aren't going to favour some of this, I am going to have to do something and get involved and figure out how I am going to shift politics on this issue," she said.
"Electricity generation is still by far the biggest contributor to Victoria's emissions and that is largely because of the three remaining brown coal plants in the Latrobe Valley.
"That is where we are focusing a lot of our efforts at Environment Victoria. Moving to a renewable energy powered systems enables a whole lot of emissions reductions in other sectors as well."
RELATED COVERAGE: Ballarat group continues call for Victorian Emission Reduction Targets
Ms Edwards said the Victorian government had some good targets and climate policies, but Environment Victoria was focused on trying to phase out coal by 2030 and moving as close to 100 per cent renewable energy as possible.
She said she was disappointed the Victorian government had not yet announced its emission reduction targets that were due to be released in March.
"The pandemic clearly could go either way. A lot of people around the world have been talking about using COVID recovery packages to fund climate solutions," Ms Edwards said.
"We have been talking a lot with the Victorian government about jobs rich climate solutions that they could be turning to right now.
"It could go either way, we could see the pandemic being used to delay, federal government groups are seeing it as an opportunity to push for gas.
"On the other hand there is going to be a lot of interest in what can create jobs right now and our state government is interested in talking about those being climate solutions focused."
Green Drinks organiser Tony Goodfellow said the first virtual event provided an opportunity for people to connect during a time of isolation and continue discussions on climate change.
He said great change could stem from community-led actions and discussions, but there needed to be more spaces for community members to talk about issues, possible actions and solutions.
"We will continue Green Drinks online while we can't meet in person," he said.
"COVID in a way has forced lots of people like myself and lots of groups to think about how we can use technology even better, how to adopt it and innovate."
Green Drinks will host a council elections candidate forum next month.
Green Drinks has been running as a monthly in person event in Ballarat since 2013. Visit their Facebook page to get involved.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.