Councils respond to the climate emergency

It was a world first when Darebin City Council adopted a community-wide climate emergency plan. Now, some of Australia’s other 536 councils are getting ready to act, and in the United States, the emergency campaign has already been taken up by three local governments, including Los Angeles County.

Fed up with state and federal governments failing to act as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to grow, a group of climate activists in Melbourne developed a plan that tackles the emergency at the local government level.

The plan has the potential to bring other councils along, developing innovative models for reducing emissions and drawing down greenhouse gases across the council portfolio, raising public awareness, and putting pressure on state and federal governments to ultimately pull those big levers and reverse global warming.

So how did the world’s first Climate Emergency Plan happen and how does the plan differ from other campaigns and other council climate plans?

We found out at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne on 10 February 2018, when councillors Susan Rennie and Trent McCarthy from Darebin City Council participated in a Q&A with facilitator Adrian Whitehead from the organisation Community Action for the Climate Emergency (CACE).

Philip Sutton from RTSI and co-author of Climate Code Red explained why we are in an emergency and what emergency action means. Bryony Edwards, also from CACE, explained the organisation’s strategy and how you can help your council adopt the Darebin model.

Listen to the presentations:

Adrian Whitehead, co-founder Beyond Zero Emissions, CACE and Save the Planet

Adrian Whitehead: introduction


» Download audio



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Philip Sutton, Research and Strategy for Transition Initiation Inc (RSTI)

Philip Sutton: Why local government action can lead to national and global action


» Download audio



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Bryony Edwards, CACE and Save the Planet

Bryony Edwards: How we got Darebin to declare a climate emergency


» Download audio



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Adrian Whitehead

Adrian Whitehead: Working with Darebin Council


» Download audio



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Susan Rennie and Trent McCarthy

Darebin Councillors Susan Rennie and Trent McCarthy


» Download audio

Darebin Council’s initial responses – and what’s next in Darebin.

Trent McCarthy
Philip Sutton, Susan Rennie and Trent McCarthy

Wrapping up


» Download audio

The session was held at The Big Weekend of the Sustainable Living Festival at Birrarung Marr in Melbourne from 12pm to 1pm on 10 February 2018. The session was titled: ‘Councils leading the climate emergency – Success at Darebin Council is spreading’

» Program page

» More information about the Sustainable Living Festival on www.slf.org.au


» CACE’s home page: www.caceonline.org

» CACE on Facebook

» The Climate Emergency Declaration campaign’s home page:
www.climateemergencydeclaration.org


» Darebin City Council’s climate emergency plan:
www.yoursaydarebin.com.au/climateaction



Trent McCarthy talking about Darebin City Council’s Climate Emergency Plan at the Climate Leadership Conference in Sydney in March 2018. He invited other councils to copy it, and just replace ‘Darebin’ with their own name.


» Centre for Climate Safety – 11 April 2017:
Thought leadership: How local councils crunch the climate stalemate





70 Australian councils joins Climate Council program

Parallel to the Community Action for the Climate Emergency climate emergency program, the Australian Climate Council runs a ‘Cities Power Partnership’ program aimed at eventually including every local government in the country.

70 councils have signed up to the ‘Cities Power Partnership’ so far, representing around five million local residents, and more are coming. Recently seven Queensland councils joined the program, which originally kicked off with 35 Australian councils on board.

Councils which decide to join the program have around six months to produce at least five pledges to work towards. Things like setting city-level renewable energy targets, powering all council operations from renewable energy, for instance by installing solar panels on council facilities, and providing fast-charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Yearly progress reports are required, and smaller councils are linked with larger, more experienced councils for support.

Climate councillor and ecology professor Lesley Hughes told SBS Radio that “It’s a global problem but, really, the solutions are local, because it’s at the local level, of course, where emissions are made. And it’s been calculated that about 70 per cent of the emissions reduction necessary to meet the Paris targets will come from, or can come from, cities and towns. So cities and towns are really the key to moving towards a de-carbonised economy.”
    
Noosa Shire Council has completed a full audit of all of its actions, activities and facilities. They now have a five-year action plan to implement all sorts of things to do with zero emissions.

“That goes from the micro, which is changing over from exterior power tools to electric power tools, right through to the macro, which is putting in very large solar-panel systems on facilities like our aquatic centre. But, also, we’re seeking behaviour change on the part of councils, council staff,” Noosa’s mayor Tony Wellington told Andrea Nierhoff from SBS.

Darebin City Council, Moreland City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire and City of Greater Dandenong have signed up. Neither Geelong Council, Surf Coast Shire or any other council in the Geelong region have signed up yet.

» See which councils have signed up



» Home page: www.citiespowerpartnership.org.au

» YouTube video about the program

» Climate Council’s home page: www.climatecouncil.org.au





  

Lismore: The bigger shift to community sustainability

Australia’s first council-community solarfarm partnership and Australia’s largest floating solarfarm was launched in Lismore on 30 January 2018.

Lismore is in the heart of the Northern Rivers region – which has arguably the strongest region-wide focus on sustainable energy currently of anywhere in Australia – and is one of the top 10 solar postcodes in the country.

The community’s deep public concern regarding climate change, public health and the conservation and regeneration of nature and farming is further evident in the ‘Imagine Lismore 10 Year Plan 2013-2023’; and the gas fields free movement which resulted in Australia’s first ever withdrawal of a coal-seam-gas mining operation, from nearby Bentley.

Aiming for 100% renewables
In 2014 the Lismore City Council created their 100% Renewable Energy Master Plan with a goal to self-generate all of Council’s electricity from renewable source by 2023. The origins of this plan were General Manager Garry Murphy’s announcement of the 100% ‘big, hairy and audacious goal’ at the official launch of the community solarfarms program at NCEF ‘13.

This bold vision was highly aligned with the community desire for sustainability as expressed in the Imagine Lismore ten year plan. It also led to the Lismore City Council’s ‘partnership strategy’:  embracing a partnership approach to achieving the community projects – of which Farming the Sun, and the Lismore Community Solarfarms, are partners.

Farming the Sun
It is within this context, with a clear groundswell of community support for renewable energy, that the Lismore Community Solarfarms have arisen – focused on clean energy, ethical local investment and the bigger shift to sustainability.

More broadly, Farming the Sun is a key contributor to Australia’s nascent community energy movement and sector, and an active member of the Coalition for Community Energy (C4CE).

The movement has grown from little more than an abstract concept in 2006, to a point where today there are 91 groups around the country and nearly 11MW of installed renewable energy capacity.

As the solarfarm project bounded from obstacle to opportunity, and limitation to possibility, it indeed proved that necessity is the mother of invention – creating the ambitious and successful ‘Community Solarfarm Loan model’.

This model is the first community/council investment framework to fund renewable energy infrastructure with community raised funds, which were in turn lent to the Council for the procurement and operation of the solarfarms on two of Council’s highest energy-use facilities.

The Council-Community Solarfarm model was created through the Farming the Sun collaboration by Starfish Initiatives, Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright – with generous assistance from Repower Shoalhaven and The Difference Incubator.

This community energy model is now freely available under a Creative Commons License to other Councils and community energy groups who wish to develop their own solar and sustainable energy projects.

» Details of the available documents can be found here.

 





» RenewEconomy – 24 July 2017
Sunshine Coast opens 15MW solar farm that will save it $22 million