Australian local councils lead the way in tackling climate change as federal policy stalls
Local councils across Australia are taking climate action into their own hands as climate policy paralysis plagues the federal government.
Thirty-five have pledged to switch to renewable energy, build sustainable transport, and develop greener, efficient and more climate-resilient communities.
The pledges by the councils, which serve three million Australians, were made as part of the Climate Council’s launch of the Cities Power Partnership, which encourages towns and cities via local governments to reduce emissions and increase resilience.
The launch came as the Climate Council released a report showing the unique threats and opportunities climate change poses for Australian towns and cities, and highlighting earlier findings that 70% of the emissions reductions required to keep global warming at 2C can be achieved by making changes at the local level.
“Cities and towns are leading the way in Australia with many putting the federal government to shame,” said the Climate Council chief executive, Amanda McKenzie. “This follows the US example where 250 mayors have committed to the Paris agreement in spite of the Trump withdrawal.”
Councils from every state and territory except South Australia signed the pledge, and included Canberra, Alice Springs, Newcastle, North Sydney, Kur-ring-gai and Penrith.
The participating councils will select five actions from a list of 32 that will help them achieve the aims of the partnership, and will report on their progress every six months. The possibilities include rolling out energy-efficient street lighting, setting minimum energy-efficiency benchmarks for planning applications, ensuring new developments maximise public transport use, and setting renewable energy or emissions-reduction targets.
The report also highlights the number of councils already implementing many of the 32 options for action.
The chief councillor of the Climate Council, Tim Flannery, urged “councils across the rest of Australia to take the pledge and get on with the job of combatting climate change”.
Writing in the Conversation, the Climate Council councillor and scientist Lesley Hughes said: “Ultimately, the [Cities Power Partnership] is designed to help local communities sidestep the political roadblocks at national level, and just get on with the job of implementing climate policies.”
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