Yarra Ranges Council has reaffirmed its commitment to taking action on climate change by supporting, at tonight’s public Council meeting, a report and motion recognising we face a global climate emergency, requiring urgent action by all levels of government.
The report highlighted the significant action Council had already been taking to reduce its carbon footprint, including the installation of solar panels on 36 Council and community buildings, and programs to support residents and businesses to reduce their own emissions.
Yarra Ranges Mayor Tony Stevenson said climate change was becoming widely recognised by the majority of Australians as an issue requiring more attention.
A recent poll by The Australia Institute revealed 81 per cent of Australians were concerned that climate change would result in more droughts and flooding, up from 78 per cent in 2018.
“Council has long accepted the scientific evidence for climate change driven by human activity,” Cr Stevenson said.
“We’ve taken a strategic approach to reduce our emissions for more than 10 years, working towards our 2020 emission reductions goals while saving money on our bills by producing renewable energy.
“Now, we join a large number of Councils around Australia and the world in formally recognising this climate emergency.
“By calling this an emergency, we’re signaling the need to go further than business-as-usual with our approach to climate action and encourage others to do the same.”
Cr Stevenson said the Council report provided an update to councillors and the community on a number of achievements Council had made as part of its commitment and strategic approach to climate action.
Some of Council's recent achievements include:
- In 2012 Council endorsed its Adapting to a Changing Climate and Energy Future Plan, which included a commitment to reduce emissions from Council activities by 30 per cent on year 2000 levels by 2020. Council is well on track to achieve those targets.
- An upgrade of more than 6,000 street lights in 2014/15 delivered better quality lighting while reducing energy use and greenhouse emissions from those lights by 70 per cent. This action has also resulted in savings on energy bills of around $500,000 per year.
- Installation of more than 4,000 solar panels across 36 Council buildings, ensuring 25 per cent of electricity use in Council facilities is now supplied by renewable energy.
- LED lighting and upgrades to heating and cooling equipment have been completed at 10 Council sites, reducing energy demand by 140,000kWh annually.
- Council organising more than 800,000 trees to be planted on public and private land in the last ten years through Council's Ribbons of Green program.
- Supporting community-based renewable energy groups and projects, such as the Warburton Community Hydro project, Yarra Glenergy and Healesville CoRE.
Council is also currently working on projects to continue this work, such as a joint procurement of renewable energy with other Councils, updating its climate change plans and investigating the use of landfill sites for solar farms.
Cr Stevenson said he was particularly aware of the impact that concerns about climate change was having on young people.
The Lowy Institute’s 2019 poll* revealed 83 per cent of 18-29 year olds saw climate change as a critical threat to the world, compared with 59 per cent of people aged over 30.
“We have an obligation, not just to our community of today, but to our future communities, to do whatever we can to reduce our environmental footprint,” he said.
“We owe it to our young people, and all of our community, to demonstrate that we are taking climate change seriously.
“I am proud of the work Yarra Ranges Council has already been doing and our commitment to the Adapting to a Changing Climate and Energy Future Plan.
“As part of the Local Government sector, Yarra Ranges Council has an opportunity to lead by example and influence other levels of government and members of the community.
“If we can save money while reducing emissions dramatically, others can too.
“By making tonight’s statement, Yarra Ranges is effectively joining with other municipalities in recognising and accelerating our efforts to reduce Council’s and the community’s environmental footprint.”
*The Lowy Institute Poll, now in its fifteenth year, offers valuable insights into Australians’ views on the questions that preoccupy diplomats and world leaders. In other words, the Poll serves a democratic function. It helps us to understand how Australians see the world, and it gives Australians an opportunity to have their say on our country’s relationship with the world.