Call for an ambitious climate action plan in Geelong

Your help is needed: You still have the opporunity to make your submission to the City of Greater Geelong’s proposed Sustainability Framework and Action Plan

The City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) has created a Sustainability Framework intended to guide Council actions and decisions on sustainability, climate change and environment. It was developed in response to community demands for Council to declare a climate emergency.

CoGG has invited community input, which is open until 30 May 2020
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Centre for Climate Safety’s response to City of Greater Geelong’s Draft Sustainability Framework

Today we submitted the following answers in the survey. If there are points you agree with, feel free to copy-paste and use them in your submission.

Q1) What do you like?

• Building community resilience to the impacts of climate change, (i.e. the ‘adaptation’ imperative)

• Continuation of Council’s commitment to the ‘One Planet Living’ framework, and (hopefully) to its ‘Zero Carbon’ component

• Role modelling best practice sustainability in Council’s day-to-day operations

• Lifting the quantity and quality of our protected natural environment

• Managing our water use efficiently

• Leading and supporting our community to move towards zero waste

• Recognition of the importance of equity, access and inclusion as key priority areas contributing to the long-term sustainability of our community.

Q2) What’s missing?

The Geelong community in September 2019 clearly stated in large numbers that it wanted Council to ‘declare’ a climate emergency, as many progressive cities and nations have done and are doing (1,500 and growing – 100 in Australia). The rationale was to use such a declaration as a springboard to establish urgent science-based emissions abatement targets and timetables for Greater Geelong, and to prioritise and resource strategies to achieve those objectives.

Instead, the draft Sustainability Framework and Action Plan contains a minimalist acknowledgement that climate change is ‘recognised’ as a global emergency, and that it is ‘among the biggest threats’ to a sustainable community. There is only a passing mention of ‘planning and delivering reduction of carbon emissions’ that is devoid of measurable city-wide ‘targets and metrics’, much less specifying the detailed strategies needed to actually mitigate emissions within Greater Geelong – Victoria’s second-largest city. It seems that this responsibility has been delegated upwards to the State and Commonwealth Governments.

The relatively ‘low hanging fruits’ have been ignored, viz upgrading the energy efficiency of our ageing commercial and residential buildings (especially insulation, window drapes and shading, roof colour, solar PV and hot water heat pumps); developing a public-private partnership-funded solar PV farm at scale;  better utilising Port Phillip Bay to reduce heavy freight and commuter traffic on our main roads; and progressively developing an integrated local public transport system based on electric or hydrogen-fuelled buses and delivery vans, on electric cars, bicycles and e-scooters, and on an expanded network of safe bicycle and walking paths (and shopping trolleys) that link the CBD, shopping centres and suburbs.

Biodiversity has been relegated to ‘moderate’ priority, in spite of the grave warnings from science of human-induced mass extinctions through global warming and loss of habitat.  Biodiversity losses in south-east Australia are severe, reflecting long-term reduction of rainfall and runoff, atrophied waterways, catastrophic wildfires, creeping low density suburbia, expanding agro-industry and destruction of habitat. There is only an aspiration – but no detail (such as more sensitive land-use planning) – on how the remaining biodiversity within Greater Geelong, the Bellarine and the Surf Coast will be protected and expanded. We are not here simply to protect ‘resources’ for future generations, but also to act as custodians of our precious environment and all living things.   

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely reset government respect for and acceptance of scientific advice. Likewise, it’s clear that, in the face of a clear threat, community compiance is offered when clear leadership, consultation and messaging are provided. Around the world, this historic event has opened an awareness at many levels that we have been presented with one-off opportunity to kickstart a historical transition to re-invent a more ecologically-focused economy and a more consultative and peaceful society.

The City of Greater Geelong must seize this unique opportunity to redefine its ambitions and projects, in ways that will truly sustain its businesses, its residents and its visitors, while also preserving our shared climate, natural environment and all living things – ensuring the happiness and survival of both present and future generations.

Q3) Gaps?

The science of climate change and its consequences receives minimal attention in this draft paper. The average global temperature continues to accelerate to now 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial, reflecting an almost 50 percent increase in CO2e emissions, with three quarters of this happening in the last 50 years – since 1970.

It is many millions of pre-human years since the Earth warmed to this level and particularly at the modern rate. There are more recent sea level projections than those used to look at risks to the Moolap industrial and residential area, to the Barwon River wetlands and to coastal beaches along the Bellarine.

In ‘identifying a structure or hierarchy of sustainability priorities that reflects what matters most to the community and relevant stakeholders’, there have been clear shortcomings. The process was poorly promoted in the community; it was telescoped into an unrealistic time frame that gave insufficient time for the Council officers to do the job the community wants; and there were a number of relevant community groups who were not invited to participate in the single workshop.

The ‘peer review’ appears to have been limited to a small number of LGAs’ publicly available documents. There are comparable industrial cities such as Newcastle, Port Augusta and others that are progressing down the renewable energy and sustainability path that should be consulted.

There is little explicit commitment to a ‘whole-of-Council’ approach to sustainability. Each department should be required to lay out a detailed budget needed to meet its sustainability obligations and projects. The overall Council budget for environment has been woefully inadequate for many years, and Council must address alternative funding options for this area while there is still time to rescue the situation.

The Strategy Framework and Action plan appears to be largely an amalgamation of existing strategy documents, and is marked by a lot of feel-good buzzwords and in-house ‘techno-speak’, typical of a consultant-delegated report. Given the imperatives referred to in this response, this is not what the community expects or needs from its Council.

How companies and organisations can build a strategy for exponential climate action

The 1.5°C Business Playbook is a spin-off from the world-leading Exponential Roadmap initiative. It guides companies and organisations of all sizes to exponential climate strategy and action and helps them align with the 1.5°C ambition. 

It is a concrete tool to facilitate halving of emissions at least every 10 years, and shift business focus to zero-carbon solutions. It is grounded in the latest science. And it focuses on simplicity and speed and aims at transforming the economy.

This playbook is to prepare businesses for the fastest economic transition in history and help them drive it. 

→ Download the playbook (PDF)

→

Q4) Other leadership options? 

‘Representing the voices of more than 16,000 members of our community, the community-led 30-year vision for Greater Geelong called for the city to be recognised as a clever and creative city-region’.

This consultative model worked very well in 2017, but the opportunity to use it again in planning the most important strategy since that time was not followed.

Recent trials with Citizens Assemblies in the United Kingdom clearly indicate that when a community allows ordinary people to make binding decisions on the biggest challenges that confront them, they are clearly able to look beyond the short-term status quo, and to constructively deal with short-sighted vested interests that want to defend their ’freedoms’.

In the context of responding to climate change warnings, the UK experience has shown that, when given the responsibility, large groups of interested citizens are fully capable of ignoring the smokescreen of misinformation and fake news that has held our society in a stalemate for decades.

We therefore strongly recommend that Council should not only listen more closely to the community’s anxiety about the deteriorating climate, but should seek new ways of improving our local democracy by once again giving the broader community the opportunity to participate in the analysis and decision-making process.

A wide selection of interested and informed business and community groups and other members, meeting with councilors and council officers, should be briefed over several weeks by experts in climate science, renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, water, waste management, biodiversity, social equity and economics.

Well-chaired representative workshop groups could then be formed to consider a specific sustainability aspect and alternative futures, again over a number of weeks, with each one charged to produce a detailed consensus report with recommendations. Finally, a representative synthesis group could be formed to amalgamate the individual reports as an integrated Strategy Framework recommendation to a plenary session, and when approved, to Council.

This process would likely take several months, but the end result would be comprehensive, sufficient, achievable and saleable to the community.       

→ Submit your response before 30 May 2020 on

News, updates and knowledge
about the climate science and solutions

“This really is crunch time if we want to lower the risk of having a catastrophic outcome. We need to get emissions downwards starting 2020. We’ve got to get going on this now.”
~ Will Steffen, Australian climate scientist

2020 expected to be Earth’s warmest year on record, scientists say. Earth just had its second-warmest December-February on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that even if 2020 ends up not being the warmest year, there’s a 99.9% chance that 2020 will end among the five warmest years on record.

“We are not on track,” climate councillor Will Steffen told Climate Conversations. He also explained about the social tipping point that put the ACT on track for running 100 percent on renewable energy.

→ Inside Climate News – 8 April 2020:
Unchecked Global Warming Could Collapse Whole Ecosystems, Maybe Within 10 Years
“A new study shows that as rising heat drives some key species extinct, it will affect other species, as well, in a domino effect.”

Carbon countdown clock: how much of the world’s carbon budget have we spent? One way of looking at emissions targets is as a fixed budget amount, or quota. This countdown shows one estimate of how long it will take to reach an amount of greenhouse gas emissions beyond which 2C of warming will be likely. We have 16 years left.

→ Bloomberg Green – 18 April 2020:
Warmest Oceans on Record Could Set Off a Year of Extreme Weather
Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans have reached record highs. Hurricanes, wildfires and severe thunderstorms all affected”

→ Time – 19 February 2020:
Every Child on Earth Faces ‘Existential Threats’ From Climate Change, Report Finds


Geelong needs a climate focussed COVID-19 fiscal stimulus
Petition: “We respectfully call upon Federal, State/Territory and local Governments of Australia to ensure any fiscal stimulus packages associated with COVID-19 directly tackle climate change at the same time.”

Green recovery – call to action
180 CEOs, ministers and NGOs in Europe launch appeal for green recovery after COVID-19 pandemic

The collective call for mobilisation says:
“We call on a global alliance of cross-party political decision-makers, business and financial leaders, trade unions, NGOs, think tankers, stakeholders, to support and implement the establishment of Green Recovery Investment Packages acting as accelerators of the transition towards climate neutrality and healthy ecosystems. We therefore commit to working together, sharing knowledge, exchanging expertise and creating synergies to deliver the investment decisions we need. Covid-19 will not make climate change and nature degradation go away. We will not win the fight against covid-19 without a solid economic response. Let’s not oppose those two battles, but let’s fight and win them at the same time. By doing so, we will only be stronger together.”
Read the call for mobilisation

→ IRENA – 20 April 2020:
Renewable Energy Can Support Resilient and Equitable Recovery
IRENA’s first Global Renewables Outlook shows decarbonisation of the energy system supports short-term recovery while creating resilient and inclusive economies and societies.

→ Manifesto issued by 170 scientists:
“It would be a blunder if we dont come greener out of the corona crisis”
Now that everything is stationary, we can radically pick up the green thread. This is what 170 Dutch scientists are advocating for today in a manifesto.They see a unique opportunity to make society “radically more sustainable”. We need to put paid to “business as usual”, they argue in a joint manifesto, published today. That call is primarily aimed at politicians, who need to develop policies and vision for the post-corona era.

“Decisive measures” are needed, according to academics from eight universities, including those in Wageningen, Leiden, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam. People can get a universal basic income, poor countries can get debt forgiveness. Such radical transformations are conceivable now that the crisis is disrupting economic certainties, they believe.
~ Frank Straver, Trouw, 11 April 2020

Our Future on Earth, 2020
A new report by Future Earth aims to understand and define the current state of the planet across various sectors including politics, biodiversity, the media and food and the challenges faced by humanity in each of these.

“Humanity is at a critical stage in the transition to a more sustainable planet and society. Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective path forward. Our Future on Earth 2020 aims to tell the story of where we are on our collective journey by connecting the dots between what society is currently experiencing – from fires to food shortages to a rise in populism – with recent developments in the research community.

”This beautifully presented report covers all areas of the climate crisis and the state of the planet in 2020, from the health impacts of climate change, to grassroots movements, financial impacts, displaced peoples, single-use plastics and the spread of disinformation.
Read the full report here

“If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization. No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us.”~ Professor Tim Lenton and co-authors (Lenton et al. 2019) “The economics of climate change will be seen as one of the worst mistakes humans have made, much worse than any of the denialists.”
~ Spencer Glendon, senior fellow, Woods Hole Research Center, and former director of investment research at Wellington Management (Kormann 2020)

The costs of climate change inaction have arrived much sooner than we expected:

“While a full economic analysis must still evaluate the stream of future costs and benefits of mitigation, it’s now possible to justify a large cut in emissions in terms of benefits that will be realised within a much shorter time frame.”
~ Quiggin, 2020