Councillors focus attention on climate change risk

Council’s December meeting passed a motion by Councillors Kathy Rice and Andrew Sloan voicing their climate change concerns.

Rather than join a growing list of councils that have formally declared a climate change emergency, the motion concluded with a request for: ‘a report be brought back to Council that outlines Kiama’s progress towards its Cities Power Partnership pledges and establishes a timeline for the pledge of setting municipality level targets and sustainable energy policies that will provide a common goal and shared expectations for local residents and businesses.’

At the meeting, Cllr Rice said, “What I’m aiming to do with this motion is to acknowledge what Kiama Council is already doing and the national sentiment.

“I’m not sure the community is fully aware of what we are doing.

“We need to be able to show we are taking climate change seriously and that we have already begun a process of responding to the impact of climate change.”

Cllr Sloan said the report was important to be able to set a target for greenhouse gas reduction.

“We made that pledge [to set a target] to the Cities Power Partnership two years ago, and now we can get on and do it.

“We’ve made a lot of changes, but now we have to set ourselves a target.

“We need to make a leadership demonstration to other levels of government who have been dragging their feet that we are meeting the same level of commitment that other local governments around the world are making.”

Amongst the energy saving measures Council has undertaken is the installation of solar panels on the Library and the replacement of old bulbs with LED lamps, through the use of a revolving energy fund.

“The report will be a risk assessment of the potential impact of climate change on our infrastructure and the services we deliver,” says General Manager Kerry McMurray.

“It is about Council increasing its focus on the potential impact of climate change, and having a more detailed analysis and risk assessment of potential impacts across the full gamut of operations, both assets and services.”

Mayor Mark Honey sees it useful to set baseline data to gauge success, “It is very difficult to say we are going to reduce our carbon footprint without knowing what it is now.”

Staff are already working on the report, with Mr McMurray estimating it could take three to six months to complete.

At the same meeting, Council approved a DA for storage units on Belvedere Street which will require the cutting down of a large number of mature trees.

Vocal opponent of the development, Camilla Kerr-Ruston, sees irony in the timing, “As 100,000 hectares of native trees burn around us Kiama councillors choose to cut down 36 trees that do and will provide essential habitats for native birds, animals and insects because there is a need for storage units for the residents of Kiama to store stuff.”

While most councillors expressed regret at the loss of trees, noting that 20 more will be planted, they said there was no legal reason for the development to be declined.

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