Polls show increasing community concern about climate change. This was reflected in the recent Wentworth byelection and is likely to become a major issue in next year’s federal election.
Unfortunately, the community concern is not resulting in any effective action from the federal government which is captive to climate change deniers and the coal lobby.
However, what is really positive is action from the third tier of government with some local councils responding to what they consider a climate emergency.
The first Australian council to do so was Darebin Council in Melbourne’s inner north. Darebin, a 53 square km area with a population of over 140,000, includes the suburbs of Preston, Reservoir and Northcote. Last year after consultation with its community, it declared a climate emergency and prepared a Climate Emergency Plan for 2017 – 2022.
The Plan’s introduction states: “Unless we restore a safe climate at emergency speed, there will be dramatic and negative impacts on our community and around the world. We are already seeing more intense and frequent heatwaves, heavy rainfall and flooding, the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, extreme fire weather and more bushfires.”
Darebin had already taken action to reduce emissions - including making Council’s buildings more energy-efficient, installing more energy-efficient street lights, and providing solar panels for 500 low-income and pensioner households and community groups.
The Emergency Plan outlines a variety of improvements and modifications by Council as well as encouragement and education of its community so that it can reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. It includes a commitment to double solar in the LGA over the next five years, explore how council can purchase renewable energy, review the fleet policy to upgrade to low-emissions vehicles, create awareness about divestment and related campaigns, and increase suitable tree canopy coverage to reduce the urban heat island effect.
Two other councils have recently followed suit – Moreland in Melbourne (which is adjacent to Darebin Council) and Byron Bay in the NSW Northern Rivers.
Of course these councils cannot restore a safe climate on their own but they are providing an example to other councils as well as to the moribund federal government.
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 29, 2018.