Geelong Council’s new climate action plan and policy paper was approved unaminously on 28 July 2020. The Sustainability Framework certainly demonstrates that a little progress has been made on climate change within the city hall chambers. Several councillors talked about their ‘learning journey’ during the last eight months, and at least the councillors have now given the community an explicit ‘acknowledgement’ that the climate emergency is real.
There are many good features of the plan, although the lack of detail and the apparently low – or deferred – budget are concerning.
In the absence of a commitment to achieve clear community-wide acceptance of the need to act, the most frightening and urgent problem confronting this city is that our leaders in the community, who have fallen asleep at the wheel, will now comfortably be able to continue doing just that. Everyone, the local media included, is looking the other way. So if not Geelong Council, who then will be lifting the responsibility of stepping up and showing the kind of carbon reductions leadership which is required now?
We still have no sound plan to save ourselves from the collapse we have been warned about again and again during three decades. The main problem is that by the time we really begin to feel the heat and see the rising waters, it will be too late to reverse the escalation of catastrophic events.
We are the climate emergency, and Council’s new ‘action plan’ doesn’t seem to offer any tools to fix that complex problem. Given the complete absence of a targets trajectory and a timetable to reach zero emissions in the municipality as a whole, we’re back to an adaptation focus on climate change, rather than our share of mitigation.
Jim Mason and Sarah Mansfield, who initiated the process by proposing that Geelong Council declared a climate emergency in September 2019, have worked hard to change this mindset within Council, and they must be assured that the city’s numerous community groups will continue to be firmly behind them – and hopefully more climate-conscious councillors after the election – as the community continues to maintain a collective pressure for climate safety.
At the same meeting, Geelong Council voted for changing 15,000 street lights to LED, which is projected to save 8,600 tonnes of carbon per year.
“There is no clear vision for improving our future. There are multiple visions for remediation, mitigation and adaptation; but these are reactive – not proactive.”
~ Sanja Van Huet
These were Sanja Van Huet’s comments to the Geelong Councillors’ new Sustainability Framework and Action Plan:
“I would like to speak frankly on the recent Sustainability Framework and Action Plan.
Firstly, the plan is important in that, as mentioned by Cr Aitkin during the meeting of the 28th July 2020, it considers sustainability in all its intertwining iterations. I don’t disagree with this. However, I have to admit that I feel very depressed and cheated by the final result, and that the report is short sighted in many ways.
- The climate change/carbon emissions/environmental sustainability/biodiversity protection etc – in short, all the areas that I and my environmental colleagues have been advocating for, are almost non-existent, buried or combined with community ‘friendly’ initiatives … and so have lost their power and urgency. Terms like ‘Global change’, ‘Biodiversity’ (crisis), ‘Environmental change’, ‘Ecology’/’ecological’ are largely lacking in the document.
- There is a distinct lack of procedure, timelines and end goals. I hope that these issues will be addressed in the follow up reports in September and December.
- That the report and action plan were presented in a way that, if a councillor didn’t vote for it, this person looked uncaring of all the factors included in the report. It said all the right things and addressed all the emotive and positive issues in Geelong’s Clever and Creative Vision. It forced a positive vote from all Councillors using the ‘puppy’ theory – you can’t hate a puppy after all.
- It used all the right words and said all the right things – but why now – and why weren’t these issues addressed previously if they were so important?
- The timing of the reports release was perfect as ‘propaganda’ for the coming Council elections. The closing date for the community feedback related to the report was put back several times – each time edging closer to the coming elections.
- I call back to the Community meeting in December at Council – where representatives from a wide variety of community groups and organisations were invited to attend and feed back to the Sustainability consultants running the afternoon. Although there was 100% consensus on many of the issues raised, this has not been addressed in the Framework. If Community voice is important, then addressing what the representatives of these groups considered important would be a good first step in construction of an Action Plan.
- Many of the initiatives in the Action Plan are reimagining’s of previous initiatives that were not started or incomplete. I use as an example the LED lighting replacement scheme – when I first moved to the Municipality 8 years ago – this was one of the initiatives being planned then. I realise that there are budgetary considerations – but there have been many budgets passed in the past 8 years – why is this only being approved now?
- The Initial Framework working paper and this iteration are convoluted and lengthy. This is not a user-friendly document and it takes many hours to go over it; cross check against other sections etc. It is very off-putting for anyone, including myself, to review. Again – this harks back to Community involvement and transparency – it is lost in jargon and the sheer 110 plus page size of the tome.
- There is no clear vision for improving our future. There are multiple visions for remediation, mitigation and adaptation; but these are reactive – not proactive. Risk assessment is based on current projections – not future ones.
I have many other concerns about the document, but these are the stand outs.
I have been blunt in my criticism, and I have to add that I am not alone in my consideration of this document and my thoughts on the reasons of the timing and the format.
Please take this comment in the spirit it is meant – constructively. But also be aware – there are many disappointed, scared, concerned and worried people in the Geelong region to who Councillors owe a duty of care.
I strongly, passionately and optimistically urge Geelong’s councillors to do what is right, not just what seems best, to be selfless, transparent and honest in all they do.”
~ Sanja Van Huet
Sustainability Framework and Action Plan
The Sustainability Framework and Action Plan – including an engagement report, which summarises the community feedback Council received – is on the agenda for Geelong Council’s meeting on Tuesday 28 July 2020.
An excerpt from the engagement report:
“CLIMATE – What was liked?
• Acknowledgement by Council of a global climate emergency.
• Activities that address sea level rise and/or coastal inundation.
• Recognition of the key contributors to climate change.
• Lack of overall targets with a net zero emissions target.
Further leadership suggestions
• There is a significant desire from respondents to declare a local climate emergency.
• Stronger acknowledgement of the risks and impacts of a changing climate and activities to address this.”
CITY OF GREATER GEELONG MEDIA RELEASE 29 JULY 2020:
Work towards sustainable future continues
“The Council has taken further action towards setting Greater Geelong on the path to a sustainable future, requesting the development of best practice public targets to hold it accountable to its sustainability commitments.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the Council endorsed an updated Sustainability Framework 2020 and Sustainability Action Plan, two watershed documents that will serve as the blueprint for the City’s ongoing sustainability efforts.
In addition, the Council has agreed to release a draft Sustainability Policy for community feedback.
And as a result of an amendment moved by Mayor Stephanie Asher, councillors also requested two separate follow-up reports from City staff.
The first report, to be presented to the Council by 21 September, will include:
· Proposed terms of reference for a Sustainability Consultative Committee, comprising ‘representatives with a range of environmental management, social/community planning and financial/risk analysis expertise.’ The committee would advise and support the implementation of the Sustainability Action Plan.
The second, due on 31 December, will include:
· Public targets to be included in the annual reporting program and the Sustainability Action Plan, including a carbon reduction target. These are to be benchmarked against best practice government and private sector organisations; and
· A public Climate Change Statement.
The Sustainability Framework brings three key priorities of sustainability together for the first time at the City of Greater Geelong: focusing equally on environmental, social and governance strategies, plans and actions.
It cements sustainability as a key consideration in all decision-making by the Council and across all areas of the City’s operations.
The Action Plan will bring the Sustainability Framework to life through key short-, medium- and long-term initiatives such as creating the Sparrovale Wetlands near Armstrong Creek, increasing the number of Social Housing dwellings in Greater Geelong, expanding the region’s network of shared trails and much more.
The framework and action plan endorsed on Tuesday night have both been updated to reflect community feedback gathered since the release of drafts in February.
The draft Sustainability Policy will be available for public feedback from today at www.yoursay.geelongaustralia.com.au.
Development of a Sustainability Policy is one of the priority actions of the Action Plan.
Quotes attributed to Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher:
“It’s critical that the Council stays connected to the people who have provided very valuable feedback on the Sustainability Framework and Action Plan, and I know they’re keen to see the momentum continue now that we have reached this point. That’s what the amendments I moved are about.
The people who gave us feedback said they wanted us to set ambitious targets, and I think we need to benchmark ourselves against the best.
The Climate Change Statement will sum up what we plan to do about climate change in one succinct statement, which will be part of the Climate Change Response Plan already underway.
And the formation of the Sustainability Consultative Committee will give us a way to continue to consult with the many passionate people who have had input into these documents so far, as well as other experts in sustainability.”
We need to make sure our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is implemented in a sustainable way, and the Framework and Action Plan give us the platform. We now want the progress to continue.
Quotes attributed to Cr Eddy Kontelj:
“The Framework and Action Plan provide the basis for addressing the City’s current and future challenges and opportunities when it comes to sustainability.
Those challenges and opportunities include environmental sustainability, but importantly include social and financial sustainability as well. The Sustainability Framework and Action Plan is about so much more than just matters related to the environment.
To provide an example of the diversity of the Action Plan – it acknowledges climate change as a global emergency and commits us to reducing our carbon emissions, but it also includes creating a Food Policy to ensure a sustainable supply of food for our community and implementation of our Multicultural Action Plan. It includes implementing our waste and resource recovery strategy, as well as our Settlement Strategy to meet the needs of our growing population.
So it really is a game changer in the way that we interact with the community and how we conduct, and will conduct all areas of our business into the future.”
CITY OF GREATER GEELONG MEDIA RELEASE 26 July 2020:
Framework for a sustainable future
“The Greater Geelong Council is set to consider an updated Sustainability Framework 2020 and Sustainability Action Plan, two watershed documents that will serve as the blueprint for the City of Greater Geelong as it works with the community towards a sustainable future.
During their meeting on Tuesday night, councillors will vote on adopting the framework and action plan, which have been updated to reflect community feedback gathered since the release of drafts in February.
In addition, the Council will consider releasing a draft Sustainability Policy for community feedback.
If adopted, the Sustainability Framework would, for the first time, bring three key priorities of sustainability together: focusing equally on environmental, social and governance strategies, plans and actions.
It would cement sustainability as a key consideration in all decision-making by the Council and across all areas of the City’s operations.
It would also give the City a way to hold itself accountable to its sustainability targets by reporting yearly against globally recognised standards.
The proposed amended Framework reflects community feedback about:
· The importance of community education and involvement in the City’s sustainability plans;
· Ensuring this Framework truly provides a foundation for City strategies and plans; and
· That it delivers on its objective to look at all facets of sustainability: environmental, social and governance-related.
It reiterates the Council’s acknowledgement that there is a climate emergency.
The proposed Action Plan will bring the Sustainability Framework to life through key short-, medium- and long-term initiatives such as creating the Sparrovale Wetlands near Armstrong Creek, increasing the number of Social Housing dwellings in Greater Geelong, expanding the region’s network of shared trails and much more.
All three documents and a summary of community feedback can be read in full within the 28 July council meeting agenda.
All recommendations in the agenda are subject to change and are not final until endorsed by the Council.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a once in a generation event that has highlighted the importance of financial, community and environmental sustainability for our region. The Sustainability Framework 2020 will help us work together to meet all of the big sustainability challenges we’re facing. By considering sustainability as a key factor in everything we do, we’ll be helping lead Greater Geelong towards our community’s 30-year clever and creative vision and a sustainable, happy and healthy future,” said Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher.
City’s seeking clear air
Geelong council wants explicit climate targets
Geelong Advertiser – Thursday 30 July 2020 on page 9
“Geelong Council has called for the city to develop public targets to hold it accountable to its sustainability commitments , as activists question a lack of a clear timeline to achieve those goals.
Councillors on Tuesday endorsed an updated sustainability framework and sustainability action plan and want a draft sustainability policy for community feedback.
Mayor Stephanie Asher also called for reports on creating terms of reference for a new sustainability consultative committee to advise and support the implementation of the action plan, adding public targets to the city’s reporting program — including a carbon reduction target — and the creation of a public climate change statement.
“The people who gave us feedback (on the sustainability framework and action plan) said they wanted us to set ambitious targets; and I think we need to benchmark ourselves against the best,” Cr Asher said.
“The climate change statement will sum up what we plan to do about climate change in one succinct statement, which will be part of the climate change response plan already under way.
“And the formation of the sustainability consultative committee will give us a way to continue to consult with the many passionate people who have had input into these documents so far, as well as other experts in sustainability.”
Geelong climate activists welcomed aspects of the city’s new sustainability framework, action plan and policy, but continued to hold some reservations around their effectiveness .
Sanja Van Huet, who was active in a push for the city to declare a climate emergency, said the city’s sustainability work had “skirted the edges in a lot of ways” .
“It has watered down the importance of the environmental side of it,” Ms Van Huet said. “It hasn’t completely ignored it; it’s actually provided new initiatives and increased focus on certain aspects , but it still hasn’t addressed some of the really big issues in the environment.
“There’s no really set timeline goals.”
Mik Aidt, who hosts the Sustainable Hour on Pulse radio station, wrote on his Centre for Climate Safety website that there were “many good features of the plan” , but labelled a lack of detail and apparent low budget as “concerning” .
He said the most urgent problem was ensuring that community leaders could not be allowed to continue to be asleep at the wheel on climate action.
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