Geelong’s carbon neutrality declaration: The speeches


A councillor dancing in response to a decision made at an ordinary Council meeting is a rare sight to say the least. However, there was good reason for the extraordinary reaction as it happened in Geelong on 23 November 2021 when the City of Greater Geelong Council unanimously approved its new Climate Change Reponse Plan and with this the ambition to reach community-wide carbon-neutrality by 2035.

The local media, however, could not see the extraordinary impact of this net zero emissions decision. In the following days, the local papers mainly headlined stories about a set of new car parking rules and a new dog park, which also were decided on by Council at that same meeting. The journalists of Geelong Indy, Geelong Times and Geelong Advertiser all saw it more important to write about various awards, festivals and getting everyone ready for the ‘Black Friday bonanza’.

For the leaders of a city of around 250,000 people to declare the city officially heading for carbon-neutrality within just 14 years stands in sharp contrast to the shameful inaction on the climate emergency which Australia made itself known for world-wide at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow two weeks earlier.

Greater Geelong’s emissions have been stable at 3.2 million tonnes for last three years. So there’s considerable work to be done. Council itself did not make an announcement ‘with a roll of drums and a trumpet fanfare’ about its decision, which is probably the most far-reaching in Geelong’s history, apart from its founding. It would appear that the 11 councillors have not all grasped the enormity of what they actually voted for. 

City of Greater Geelong is going have to lift its game to much greater heights if it expects to engage the broader community in achieving its target for our municipality. This was a lost opportunity, and the clock is ticking – louder now.

Two new ideas were presented at the Council meeting: Cr Sarah Mansfield’s suggestion to organise a ‘COP of Geelong‘ – a climate summit to bring all the city’s stakeholders together and get everyone on the same page, and David Philip’s suggestion to place a huge carbon ‘thermometre’ at display, continuously updated, showing where the city is at with its emissions. It could start at the 100% mark, and residents would then be able to follow the metre’s gradual decline down to zero.

Centre for Climate Safety’s proposal of a Climate Citizens Assembly and its rationale – especially the priorities of creating awareness and momentum, and resolving conflicting opinion – must not be allowed to be placed on the back burner either.

Here’s an excerpt of some of the speeches, comments and remarks from the meeting – as well as questions from the public.

Recordings from Geelong Council’s historic meeting

Source: Geelong Council

. . .

Cr Sarah Mansfield


. . .

Cr Bruce Harwood


. . .

Cr Jim Mason


. . .

Cr Belinda Moloney introduces the Climate Change Response Plan


Cr Belinda Moloney closes the councillor’s Climate Change Response Plan debate


. . .

Mik Aidt’s question to Geelong Councillors


David Philip’s question to Geelong Councillors


Climate Change Response Plan endorsed by Council

City of Greater Geelong wrote on their webpage: “The completed Climate Change Response Plan was endorsed by the City of Greater Geelong Council at a meeting held on the 23 November 2021. The endorsed plan will now guide responses of the City, and our community, as we act to address the causes and impacts of climate change. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the development of this plan. You can read the plan here or from the document library on the project page.”

Council eyes net zero emissions by 2035

Media release by Geelong Council on 25 November 2021

Zero net emissions in Greater Geelong by 2035 is a key feature of Council’s Climate Change Response Plan.

“The plan, which will guide the organisation and the community’s response to climate change issues and impacts through to 2030, was adopted by Council this week.

The key target is supported by a range of principles that would see the region become a zero-emission, climate ready city, including:

• A coordinated and collective response from the whole community;
• Supporting an empowered and active community;
• Increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy production; and
• Switching to sustainable transport and cleaner fuels.

With a total of 80 actions, the plan is a roadmap for collaborative action, outlining how the Council can support an empowered community response.

The draft plan was released for public consultation during July and August, with 431 comments and 39 submissions received.

Key themes emerged in the feedback, with strong support for the plan’s targets and principles; increased Council leadership and advocacy; and increased investment and engagement.

It led to 70 individual updates being incorporated into the final plan.

Mayor Stephanie Asher said the feedback recognised that a target the scale of net zero by 2035 required more than just Council’s initiatives.

“There is a clear desire in the community for the Council to proactively lead widespread action in the region,” Mayor Asher said.

“We have set this as a stretch target on the basis of responses to the Climate Change Response Plan consultation process and our own Sustainability Advisory Committee.

“Our own ambitious commitments are just one part of the solution.

“We’ll advocate for funding and partnership opportunities with other levels of government and support the local community and business sectors to implement their own initiatives.

“Everyone has an active role to play, and this plan lays the blueprint for a co-ordinated, collective effort.”

Cr Belinda Moloney, Climate Change Action portfolio chair said the community and stakeholders provided insightful and clever feedback.

“A massive thanks to everyone who contributed to this plan,” Cr Moloney said.

“Council now needs to implement this plan with fervent vigour and lead the way towards zero emissions for our community and set an example for businesses.”

The plan notes the last corporate emission reduction target of 50 per cent by 2020 was met, through a range of notable projects.

These include the installation of more than one megawatt (MW) of solar PV across 27 facilities, and the ongoing conversion of 25,000-plus street lights to LED luminaires.

Council has also procured renewable energy for all buildings and street lights over the next decade, as part of the Victorian Energy Collaboration Project.”

→ Geelong Council – 25 November 2021:
Council eyes net zero emissions by 2035

→ Geelong Times – 29 October 2021:
Community responds to climate change plan
“The city received a total of 39 submissions providing opinions and ideas, which have been summarised by independent company Kismet Forward, and released in a report which will be considered by the council before the plan is finalised and adopted.”

→ Geelong Indy – 29 July 2021:
Council targets zero emissions

→ RMIT – 8 November 2021:
Report: Four ways to guide Australian businesses to net zero
“New RMIT report shows how Government can support, regulate and  incentivise businesses to effectively work towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2035 target.”