Inspiration from climate change summit

Special report by Deputy Mayor Andrew Sloan
Mayors from as far away as Alice Springs, Port Douglas and California converged on Kiama last week as we hosted the Climate Council’s first national summit for local governments tackling climate disruption.

The Cities’ Power Partnership Summit brought together leaders in the field of climate science, who explained the likely impacts of hotter and more unpredictable weather on our communities, and representatives from local government, where real action is underway to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate those impacts.

According to the science, our planet needs to halve CO2 emissions by 2030 if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

I found the Summit inspirational. There was an optimism in the room created by the fact that an affordable and achievable path forward is emerging at the local level that if replicated across the country it would enable us to achieve that goal.

Whilst Kiama has started to ‘solarise’ many of our homes and community buildings, other councils from Melbourne and Sydney to the ACT and the Sunshine Coast have already switched to 100% renewable sources of power.

All these councils actually reduced their costs by either entering into supply agreements with the operators of large scale solar and wind farms or building their own.

Our mayor Mark Honey announced at the summit that the Blue Haven Bonaira aged care centre, currently under construction, will now include a 60 kilowatt photovoltaic system. We’re also about to install a photovoltaic system on Kiama Library that will reduce the library’s electricity usage around 33%.

I expect Kiama will work with our neighbouring councils to see if we can participate in a scheme to hasten our transition to renewable sources of power, potentially reducing our carbon footprint by 40%.

The next biggest source of carbon emissions after electricity generation is from transport.

Some local governments are leading the way in this area too. The ACT Government is expected to convert almost their entire fleet of 600 vehicles to zero emission electric or fuel cell by 2021. It is investing in public transport and cycling infrastructure and even allows their staff to ‘salary sacrifice’ to purchase e-bikes with pre-tax income. As a result, the total Territory carbon emissions are expected to drop by 70% by 2030.

“There is a huge wave of electric vehicles coming,” said the NRMA to the conference in explaining why it is providing a network of public charging stations around NSW.

I have been noticing more electric vehicles (EV’s) in Kiama and Gerringong recently and the upcoming release of many new and more affordable models will hopefully see them become very common.

Council has been lobbying both the NRMA and Tesla to set up charge points here but we will also be installing some of our own in public places and encouraging developers to do the same.

Kiama has started work on delivering our first four pledges on climate change, however one area where we lag behind many other councils is setting a carbon reduction target for ourselves and our community. It’s probably our most important pledge.

It’s time to decide what we want the Kiama target to be.

I will argue that if the science tells us we need to achieve a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 and it can be done, then it is our duty to give it our best shot.

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