Geelong Council responds to the climate emergency

“There has never been a greater need for collective action,” said Geelong councillor Sarah Mansfield. 

At Geelong Council’s meeting on 24 September 2019, more than 200 people from all walks of life and all ages in the community had come to witness their councillors’ discussion about whether or not they would support Cr Mansfield’s motion to declare the city in a climate emergency. 

After three hours of debate, with many residents standing all this time at the back and sides of the room, Geelong Council decided to vote six against five for a softer amendment of Cr Mansfield’s motion to declare a climate emergency. There was tension, anger and frustration in the chamber – harsh comments flew back and forth through the air between councillors and residents. 

Fast forward to Tuesday 23 November 2021. At the Council meeting on this day, the journey that Cr Mansfield’s climate emergency motion sent her city out on, will pass an important milestone.

If a majority among the 11 councillors vote in favour, they will on that night finally approve the proposed Climate Change Response Plan which has been over a year in the making, and they will thereby actually be responding properly to what in plan is termed ‘our climate emergency’: by aspiring to turn the entire Greater Geelong – residents, businesses, farms and industry included – into a carbon-neutral community over the next 14 years.

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Physical attendance at the meeting: If you would like to attend the meeting you must pre-register by Tuesday at 12pm noon

Questions about the plan: Members of the public are invited to ask questions at Council meetings. Questions should be provided in writing to the Council by 12pm noon on Monday

Watch from home: The Council meeting will also be live streamed on the Internet

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Three questions to the Councillors from Centre for Climate Safety

Dear Councillors

The Centre for Climate Safety in Geelong is an active community group in our region reaching thousands with our weekly podcast The Sustainable Hour. For many years we’ve been advocating to all levels of government for urgent action to combat human-caused runaway global heating and the irreversible damage that is causing to our climate and to our ecosystems.

In doing so, we reflect a widespread community uncertainty and anxiety about this fundamental and existential issue – we engage with public sector organisations and businesses as well as local residents.

We congratulate the City of Greater Geelong for its response to this challenge – for its courageous, community-wide net-zero emissions target by 2035, and for its leadership in setting out such a comprehensive plan at this late 2021 starting line.

When the draft plan was out for public hearing, we offered a wide-ranging critique of what we thought it was missing. While we see clear evidence that a number of our suggested adjustments have been absorbed into the the final version before you, we also note that three of our core recommendations have been completely ignored.

So our questions are:

  1. We proposed the formation of a 100-member Citizens’ Assembly for Geelong that would represent all stakeholder groups in Greater Geelong. Citizens’ Assemblies is an upgrade of our democracy – it is a successful bottom-up governance mechanism that is starting to play a key role in democracies around the world. In particular when it comes to making important and difficult financial decisions on the climate emergency. A Citizens Assembly in Geelong could provide a true community voice to Council, helping it to reach good decisions that will gain wide community support. Why was this core recommendation not only ignored, but not even acknowledged? (NB: An advisory board is very good, but it is NOT a Citizens’ Assembly).
  2. Including strategies and actions of our business sector and our public sector organisations into a community-wide Citizens’ Assembly would provide the Assembly with valuable skills and insights – and in return, the group could offer the business sector a transparent forum which would create public support for initiatives that are in the public interest. Considering that a large part of Geelong’s emissions come from industry and companies, and considering that you write in the plan that “many companies in the region need help to make significant change” – why does the Plan have no initiatives that could provide or facilitate this sort of help to the business sector? Where will the leadership come from that is so crucially needed here, if not from Council?
  3. We note that the Plan has no milestone targets for 2025 and 2030 or five-year reviews, which we recommended and which would have been in line with Council’s usual recommendations. Why is this?

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Response from Council

Response Question 1 (Strategy People, and Performance):

“The City is investing in continuing to establish and grow strong relationships with the community and harnessing its expertise, through deliberative engagements.

We have experience convening Citizens’ Assemblies, the first for the Our Future engagement in 2017/18 and in a similar style this year, working with 98 demographically representative community members through a series of workshops for the Our Community Plan engagement.

With regards to climate safety, at this stage the Sustainability Advisory Committee, whose members have a great level of both passion and expertise, is seen to be the best approach for deliberative conversations and engagement on topics of climate, environment and sustainability.

We will continue to welcome feedback in all its forms to ensure we are developing the best environmental solutions for both the community and Council.

Response Question 2 (City Planning & Economy/City Services):

Based on community feedback during the public exhibition of the Draft Climate Change Response Plan we have added/edited the following actions relating to the business sector.

Page 27, Ref 1.3.6 – New action regarding support for businesses developing projects for clean technology and circular economy markets: Allocate resources to support local businesses in developing clean technology and circular economy solutions.

Page 29, Ref 2.1.4 – Edited action to include detail of business incentive and finance support programs: Empower local businesses to reduce emissions by promoting access to energy efficiency and productivity initiatives, including:

• energy assessments and energy management plans

• incentives and finance programs

• advice on energy-efficient buildings.

Page 31, Ref 2.3.6 – Edited action to include detail of support for businesses adopting clean technology, renewable energy and climate positive solutions: Implement initiatives that support the uptake of clean technologies, renewables and climate positive solutions by business and community by 2023, such as Environmental Upgrade Finance.

Page 43, Ref 7.1.4 – New action including detail of support for businesses developing climate mitigation and adaptation programs, technologies and solutions: Allocate resources to support local businesses in developing climate mitigation and adaptation programs, technologies and solutions.

Page 43, Ref 7.1.5 – New action including detail of support for the planning and implementation of climate mitigation and adaptation programs by primary producers and agribusiness: Allocate resources to support the planning and implementation of climate mitigation and adaptation programs by regional primary producers and agribusiness.

Response Question 3 (City Services):

The Climate Change Response Plan will be reviewed in 2024 (as stated in the Plan on pages 7 and 22).

Community milestone targets (in addition to the net zero community emissions by 2035 target) will be considered as part of the review in 2024. This will take advantage of additional information from the completion of related actions within the Climate Change Response Plan e.g. action 1.1.3 Assess the region’s capabilities and skills in climate action. Please note the City has set a milestone target for its own operations in the Plan i.e. zero net emissions by 2025.”

These responses to the questions from Centre for Climate Safety can be found on Geelong Council’s website and will also be published in the minutes of this meeting.

Global perspective: Cities can do it

London Mayor Sadiq Khan: A new world

Sadiq Khan is Mayor of London and Chair-Elect of C40 Cities. He spoke at C40’s event at COP26 in Glasgow on 4 November 2021, called ‘Our Last, Big Chance: Why our future depends on action taken today in the world’s cities’

Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Climate Solutions

Michael Bloomberg is a former Mayor of New York, president of the C40 Cities alliance and the UN Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions. He spoke at C40’s event at COP26 in Glasgow on 4 November 2021, called ‘Our Last, Big Chance: Why our future depends on action taken today in the world’s cities’

Local perspective: Surf Coast’s new climate policy upgrade

Geelong’s neighbouring council Surf Coast Shire has taken its next steps in its climate emergency response.

Media release from Surf Coast Shire on 26 November 2021

“Surf Coast Shire Council has taken an important step in its Climate Emergency response, with the adoption of a policy that will result in improved environmental outcomes at Council’s facilities and buildings.

Council adopted the Environmentally Sustainable Council Facilities Policy at its November meeting. The policy will ensure climate change will be considered and positive environmental outcomes will be generated at new facilities, and during renewals and upgrades.

Major projects will utilise two rating systems – the Green Star and the Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard – which will support Council’s commitment to environmentally-sustainable design, construction and operation at its facilities.

Cr Kate Gazzard described the Environmentally Sustainable Council Facilities Policy as a key step on Council’s low emissions journey.

“Emissions associated with the construction and operation of Council facilities have historically been a significant contributor to Council’s corporate greenhouse gas emissions profile.”

“We recognise the policy means there are going to be more upfront costs to projects but ultimately, it will result in an overall cost reduction, with lower energy use and ongoing operational costs, knowing these facilities and buildings are going to be utilised by community members and visitors for years to come.”

Cr Gazzard was pleased to adopt the policy – an action of the Climate Emergency Corporate Response Plan 2021-2031.

“Thanks to this policy, we are going to see important outcomes including procuring renewable electricity for all new buildings, water efficiency, transitioning away from gas, and avoiding waste – both during construction and when the facilities are up and running,” she said. “It will all help as Council strives to become a carbon-neutral organisation.”

The new policy applies from 23 November 2021 onwards to all Council facilities and buildings including administrative offices, leisure and aquatic facilities, libraries, recreation reserve facilities, town halls, childcare centres, kindergartens, and works depots.

All projects must meet mandatory requirements such as being powered by renewable electricity and installing rooftop solar, avoiding new gas installations, promoting sustainable transport options, seeking to incorporate more recycled material in builds, and landscaping that considers future climates.”

On the agenda for Geelong Council’s meeting on 23 November 2021:

Recommendation to Council: Page 86-88
Proposed Climate Change Response Plan 2021-2030: From page 89 (57 pages)

Download or open the full agenda document (PDF)

• The proposed Climate Change Response Plan 2021-2030 sets a municipal wide community emissions reduction target of zero net emissions by 2035. This target is supported by an Action Plan that addresses the priority areas of community support, energy, transport, waste and climate resilience – developed as “a roadmap for collaborative action.”

• All municipality-managed operations are to reach net zero emissions by 2025.

• 100 per cent renewable electricity supply used for all City-owned and operated buildings, and streetlights by 2021.

The recommendation is that Council adopt the Climate Change Response Plan 2021–2030 on its meeting on Tuesday.

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• The plan will guide the City of Greater Geelong’s response to climate change issues and associated impacts on our region. 

• City of Greater Geelong will provide actions and support to demonstrate leadership and accelerate further action across multiple sectors within our municipality.

• Feedback themes from the community engagement period during July and August on the draft plan included:

– Support for the plan’s targets and principles

– Desire for Council leadership and

– Increased investment and engagement

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“We all need to do our part to reduce emissions and prepare for climate impacts, even though we cannot predict how climate change responses will develop at broader scales. While our plan is designed to guide our organisation’s response to climate change over the next 10 years, we strongly encourage individuals and organisations to use it as a road map for guiding their individual and collective responses.

No single organisation can achieve the targets and actions set out in this plan on their own. All levels of government, business and community must play an active role to achieve collective impact. 

While we have committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2025 for our operations, we recognise that the community is seeking our support and leadership to achieve the broader target. Action, advocacy, education, communication, coordination and support for grassroots action are just some of the ways we can respond.

By 2047, Greater Geelong will be internationally recognised as a clever and creative city-region that is forward looking, enterprising and adaptive and cares for its people and environment.

We aim to become a zero-emissions, climate-ready city and region. We will achieve this through a coordinated and collective response from the whole community.


1. Achieve net zero community emissions by 2035.

2. Become a climate-ready municipality, with increased resilience to current and future climate risks.

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With a population of more than 250,000, empowering residents to take individual and collective climate action is a critical element of a municipal response to climate change. While many local residents are already acting, some need additional help – whether that’s better access to information and advice, or direct support to implement more sustainable ways of living.

An effective municipal climate response is not possible without support from the business sector. While many companies in the region are already operating more sustainably, others need help to make significant change.

Supporting a lower-carbon economy helps business to lower costs and build positive brand associations. However, the lack of collaboration between individual businesses minimises the collective impact of change. Government organisations and business alliances are well placed to help address this.

We are fortunate to have so many community-based groups driving climate action in our region. These groups are the activists, innovators and early adopters in our regional climate emergency response. Most contribute their time, expertise and energy to addressing climate action in a voluntary capacity.

By drawing on their members’ knowledge, skills and experience, these groups drive specific climate action initiatives such as awareness and educational outreach programs and sustainable group procurement. Most groups are calling for better coordination to help drive the quantum shift in societal norms needed to address the climate emergency. All groups will play a critical role in reaching out to a broader community audience. 

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“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Extreme heat, bushfires, declining rainfall and extreme storm events are challenging our community’s resilience. We can no longer ignore it, and the time for debate is long gone. We need to address climate change urgently to achieve our aspiration to be a clever, creative city region.

Of course, we understand that this is a global issue, and we are just one small part of the problem. But we also know that a significant part of the solution is in all those smaller parts taking action. It is critical that we take action locally, and encourage others to do the same, to reduce our emissions and prepare for the impacts.

We are fortunate to have so many committed and self-motivated residents in our community and it is our role as a council to take the lead, and also to ensure we enable everyone in our municipality to take action and play their part in the solution.

We have made significant progress in reducing the organisation’s emissions and managing climate impacts. We have committed to reaching net zero emissions for our operations by 2025 and already use 100 per cent renewable electricity. We are rapidly transforming our fleet to zero-emission vehicles and recover 95 per cent of the methane generated from our landfills.

We are educating our whole organisation and embedding climate action through our Sustainability Framework and Action Plan, which are underpinned by our Sustainability Policy. We have also embedded climate change in our Enterprise Risk Framework and, earlier this year, Council endorsed our founding membership of the Barwon South West Climate Alliance.

As we look towards our future, we fully embrace taking a leadership position as we understand action on climate change is a significant priority for residents. An essential step to achieving collective impact at the municipal level is a coordinated and cooperative response, all working towards an agreed community emission reduction target.

Following endorsement of our Sustainability Framework, Council began engaging with the community in 2020 to develop this municipality-wide Climate Change Response Plan, which I am delighted to share with you.

The plan is a roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the municipality and make our city-region more resilient to climate impacts. We listened when the community told us to set an ambitious target and responded with a goal of net zero emissions Greater Geelong-wide by 2035.

This target and the plan to achieve it both acknowledge that we all need to play a role within our spheres of control and influence, both individually and collectively. It is a call to action for everyone to be part of the solution.

The plan identifies what actions we need to take, not the operational details of how we might implement those actions. It is intended that residents, businesses and organisations will use the plan for guidance and act within their spheres of control and influence.

We recognise the strong foundations of grassroots and local climate action initiatives across the region. As a Council, we are committed to working with all parties to deliver climate actions that provide mutual benefits for the entire region.

We want to develop new partnerships and collaborations that build on the work, expertise, ideas and capacity that exists across our community. We want to better understand how we can unify our efforts around the concept of ‘caring for country’, learning from the depth of experience and knowledge of the Wadawurrung, our Traditional Owners. We will do what we can within our sphere of control to support individuals and grassroots community action and advocate for action at higher levels.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this plan, including councillors, staff, community members, businesses, organisations, consultants and of course our Sustainability Advisory Committee. Thank you all for sharing your ideas, expertise and insights to help make the plan the best it can be.

Our aspiration is to become a zero-emissions, climate-ready city and region. I hope that you will join with us as we work to get there.”

Cr Stephanie Asher
Mayor, City of Greater Geelong

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The Plan was informed by extensive community engagement between September 2020 to March 2021 and feedback received on the Draft Climate Change Response Plan from 28 July to 25 August 2021.

There were 39 submissions received, many of which provided detailed and extensive feedback. All feedback has been itemised and addressed in the Climate Change Response Plan – Response to Submissions.

Of the 39 submissions, 17 commended the City on preparing the Draft Plan, particularly Council’s acknowledgment of the climate change issue and its leadership role in supporting the community’s attainment of the mitigation target to achieve net zero community emissions by 2035. The Draft Plan was regarded as a wellconsidered, scientifically based, sound response to the issue, and submitters acknowledged the hard work involved in preparing such a document. Three submissions provided negative sentiments on the Draft Plan, whilst a further 19 either offered both positive and negative sentiments or didn’t indicate their sentiment one way or the other.

Respondents were strongly in favour of setting a strong target and adopting a science-based data approach. Interim targets for 2025 and 2030 were also suggested.

Some respondents felt the business sector should be included within the definition of ‘community’ and that businesses should also commit to the target, led by the Council.

The following themes were identified from the engagement feedback:

• Leadership, advocacy and support – participants expressed a desire for the City to take a proactive stance to help drive collective action, through public commitment and advocacy at the highest levels;

• Coordination, collaboration and governance – there was a strong desire for the City to facilitate a collaborative and integrated approach across the region;

• Transparency – the need for regular, public and transparent reporting, monitoring, target setting and evaluation. Desirable to see actions supported with clear timelines and measurables;

• Raising awareness – participants noted that many people do not feel individually affected by climate change. Raising awareness of the issues and impacts is critical;

• Utilising and building regional capacity – participants noted that the region has an impressive track record in climate action and has access to an extensive pool of community knowledge and skills;

• Embedding climate action in decision making – participants emphasised the need for embedding climate action formally in all strategic documents and decisions; and

• Funding and resourcing – participants noted that long-term funding commitments are needed to help provide certainty and a signal of commitment over the longer term.

“City of Greater Geelong extends its gratitude to Encader Consulting, as well as the many individuals and organisations whose enthusiasm, commitment and contributions helped shape the plan:” 

• 100% Clean Bellarine
• Active Geelong
• Australian Parents for Climate Action
• Bellarine Bayside Committee of Management
• Bellarine Catchment Network
• Bellarine Landcare
• Centre for Climate Safety
• Diversitat
• Friends of the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve
• Geelong Environment Council
• Geelong Field Naturalists Club
• Geelong Sustainability
• Geelong Youth Council
• Ocean Grove Coastcare
• Ocean Grove Community Association
• Public Transport Users Association – Geelong
• Transition Streets Geelong
• Trust for Nature

• Geelong Chamber of Commerce
• Geelong Port
• Godfrey Hirst
• Viva Energy
• Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation

• Barwon Coast Committee of Management
• Barwon Water
• Corangamite Catchment Management Authority
• Our councillors and employees
• Deakin University
• Department of Health and Human Services
• Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
• Kardinia Park Stadium Trust
• Sport & Recreation Victoria
• Sustainability Advisory Committee
• Sustainability Victoria
• The Gordon


Download or open the full agenda document (PDF)
The proposed plan is included in the meeting agenda document, starting at page 89

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These were our suggestions to Council’s first draft plan