Climate activist joins Geelong Council

On 28 June 2023, Sarah Hathway – one of Geelong’s longtime climate activists and a passionate anti-Viva-gashub campaigner – was sworn into office at Geelong Council.

Congratulations, Sarah Hathway! We hope your vote at Council meetings from here on will help push the 5/6 balance in a new direction, where City of Greater Geelong will #putclimatefirst – or, at the very least, back on the agenda – in all decisions Council makes.

As it is becoming increasingly clear on the daily news, we – humanity – are collectively running out of time, and after “declaring a global climate emergency” several years ago, Geelong Council’s lack of concrete response to its declaration, and its target of going carbon neutral by 2035, has been a huge disappointment. So far shamefully little has happened to actually turn the ambitious goal into reality.

Recently over 30 Geelong environmental organisations and representatives joined together to raise grave concerns regarding the City of Greater Geelong Council’s insufficient commitment to effective climate action.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Surf Coast Shire Council has updated its Climate Emergency Response Plan 2021-2031 with “enhanced focus on adapting to the impacts of the climate emergency”, and with an addition of an “emissions reduction roadmap”. Their Action Plan is on display for public comment until 31 July 2023 via

Surf Coast Shire Council also has a big climate emergency billboard at display at the main road in front of its offices, making sure all local residents are aware of the situation and the position of their Council.

In other words: You don’t need to look far to find inspiration in terms of what municipal climate emergency action can look like, Sarah.

Another neighbouring municipality, Queenscliffe Borough, developed an award-winning Climate Emergency Response Plan in collaboration with its community which commits to achieving net zero emissions by 2031, as well as interim steps including matching local electricity consumption with 100% renewable energy by 2025. In that regard, the community there has experienced disappointments already, must be said, just like we have in Geelong.

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City of Greater Geelong wrote: “Greater Geelong Council has welcomed its newest councillor, with Sarah Hathway elected today following a countback conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC).

The extraordinary vacancy in the Windermere Ward arose due to the resignation of Kylie Grzybek on 29 May. On 28 June, the VEC conducted a countback of all formal votes from the Windermere Ward in the 2020 Greater Geelong City Council. Votes were redistributed to all remaining eligible candidates from the general election.”

Mayor Trent Sullivan said: “I offer my congratulations to Sarah Hathway on joining the Council. On behalf of Council, I welcome Sarah to the team and I’m looking forward to working with her to represent the local community.”

Open Letter to Geelong Councillors:

Insufficient action on climate change

Over 30 Geelong environmental organisations and representatives have joined together to raise grave concerns regarding the City of Greater Geelong Council’s insufficient commitment to effective climate action.

The open letter, sent to Councillors on 24 May 2023, comes as the City’s Draft Budget proposes cuts to environmental funding and withdrawal from collaborative community partnerships that take action on climate change.

Despite Council having adopted a municipal target of net zero emissions by 2035 and claiming to want to lead effective action, the open letter states that Council is not on track to fulfil its commitments and that the City is not adequately prioritising the environment and the imperative for “deep, rapid and sustained” climate action.

The letter calls on Geelong Councillors to work collaboratively with community, businesses and state and federal governments to reach net zero by 2035. It requests that the City reverse environmental budget cuts and boost funding that supports climate action including adequately resourcing the City’s Climate Change Response Plan with staff and funding.

In part, the open letter reads:

“Recent events and decisions by the City have galvanised the community to raise grave concerns regarding Council’s insufficient commitment to effective climate action. The City is not on track to fulfil its aspiration to become a zero-emissions, climate-ready city and region. The window of opportunity to stabilise our climate is closing. All levels of government must develop and implement practical policies to drive down carbon emissions.”

“Geelong is clearly not on track to reach its critical municipal climate target!”

“We only have seven years or 80 months left this decade before we miss a crucial and potentially catastrophic window to address climate change. Now is the time for everyone to come together to address this urgent issue. We need civic leaders who are committed to working with the community to deliver effective solutions with real impact.”

Dan Cowdell, CEO of Geelong Sustainability, said:

“Supporting environmental outcomes isn’t an optional budget item that can be cut, and the tendency towards more inward focus and withdrawal from involvement in community partnerships that help address climate change is extremely concerning.”

“We need everyone working together to address this issue and civic leadership that is willing to get involved and work with us towards solutions that create real impact.”

Laura Grufas, National Community Organiser of Australian Parents for Climate Action, said:

“We need to see strong leadership at every level of government to prioritise action on climate change. As the biggest regional centre in Victoria, we should be leading the way and not going backwards.”

“We have such a short window to respond and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. Our region has so much to gain and lose if we don’t respond appropriately, this is our kids’ future they are playing with.”

“The council has a responsibility to support its ratepayers in ensuring that they are able to respond and adapt to the changes we are experiencing. The latest cuts in staff and resourcing doesn’t provide us with confidence that they are serious about delivering the climate response plan needed.”

Noreen Nicholson of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change Geelong said:

“Judged on its draft budget, Council is not taking Climate Change seriously and is not providing adequate funding in the budget to respond to this immense threat to our community’s well being and that of future generations.”

Darcy Dunn of ACF Geelong Community, said:

“While we accept the need for financial sustainability, we do not think the City is adequately prioritising the environment and the urgent need for climate action. The draft budget is shortsighted and ignores the longer term costs of not acting on climate change.”

Read the full letter: Open Letter to Geelong Councillors

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Surf Coast Shire Council endorses further climate emergency response and action

Surf Coast Shire Council has updated its Climate Emergency Response Plan 2021-2031, with enhanced focus on adapting to the impacts of climate change, and addition of an emissions reduction roadmap.

Council resolved at its June meeting to approve changes to the plan and also endorsed a separate draft 2023-2025 Climate Emergency Action Plan for public exhibition.

“Council is pleased to be making further decisive steps forward on our climate emergency response with these actions,” Cr Kate Gazzard said. “The 2021-2031 Climate Emergency Response Plan provides strategic long-term vision, goals and actions for managing Council’s response to the climate emergency, while action plans are developed every two years setting ambitious but practical shorter-term goals.

“We are proud to have reached some important and meaningful climate response milestones since Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2019 but aspire to more under the guidance of these plans.

“And in striving to demonstrate climate emergency leadership we hope to inspire and empower climate action across our community.”

The updated Climate Emergency Response Plan now includes an Emissions Reduction Target and Roadmap adopted in April 2022, and a Climate Adaptation Planning Framework.

Key goals within the response plan include reducing emissions within Council’s operational control to zero by 2030, excluding Anglesea Landfill and building resilience to ensure we thrive within a changing climate. Building resilience recognises the impact of climate change and the frequency of increasingly severe weather events which can have significant impact on Council infrastructure including road and stormwater networks.

Council’s corporate operational achievements since 2019 include transition to 100 per cent renewable electricity, reduction in non-landfill greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 per cent, installation of extensive solar systems and battery storage on Council buildings, and achieving Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard certification. 

The 2023-25 Action Plan sets out actions under six goals including that Council:

·        Is carbon neutral

·        Generates, stores and uses renewable energy

·        Is working with local Registered Aboriginal Parties and First Nations on Climate Change, and

·        Facilitates and empowers community responses to the Climate Emergency.

The Action Plan is on display for public comment until 31 July via

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