Australia’s first Climate Emergency Plan

On 21 August 2017, Darebin City Council unanimously adopted Australia’s first local government-level Climate Emergency Plan, following a month and a half of public consultation. The Melbourne residents can now download the 84-page plan from the municipality’s website.

Congratulations to Mayor Kim le Cerf, Councillor Trent McCarthy and all other Councillors of Darebin with this step which demonstrates true leadership at a time when so many of Australia’s elected leaders are in denial about the dangers of climate inaction. The new plan provides a model that other councils are now able to learn from and adapt in a similar manner.

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» Download the plan (84-page PDF document)

“Council recognises that we are in a state of climate emergency. Unless we restore a safe climate at emergency speed, there will be dramatic and negative impacts on our community and around the world. In Australia we are already seeing more intense and frequent heatwaves, heavy rainfall and flooding, the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and extreme weather leading to more bushfires.

Around the world, ecological tipping points are being reached. The vast ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland have started to melt, with the potential to raise sea levels enough to flood some major cities and the river deltas where much of the world’s food is grown.

Climate change has the potential to contribute to conflicts and mass migrations, as natural disasters and scarcity of food and water increase. There is therefore an urgent need to take action on climate change to ensure safety for ourselves, our future and all other life on the planet. Darebin Council is committed to taking action to preserve a liveable planet for our children and the generations to follow.”
~ Excerpt from Darebin City Council’s Climate Emergency Plan

Solid majority to take action

After the October 2016 council elections, the newly elected Council in Darebin unanimously recognised the climate emergency at its first meeting.

Before the local elections, Darebin Climate Action Network (DCAN) had approached a great many of the huge field of candidates for the Council election to get them to support a declaration of a climate emergency and to get them to commit to a commensurate action program. As it turned out, seven of the nine Councillors elected had made the commitment, so there was a solid majority to take action.

The new Council then began work on transforming its previous climate plans for the council operation and for the community into the Climate Emergency Plan which it has now adopted.

Executive Summary

Excerpt from Darebin City Council’s Climate Emergency Plan

“Our climate is changing rapidly. The past few decades have seen an unprecedented rate of warming. The past 16 years are among the 17 warmest years on record; 2016 was the hottest year on record and the third year in a row to beat this record. Global sea levels have risen more than 20cm since the end of the 19th century. There have been devastating impacts on Australia’s coral reefs, mangrove forests and marine kelp forests. There are already climate refugees and millions of people are in danger of being displaced. Commentators and researchers are already linking conflicts around the world with climate change impacts such as drought.

Council has recognised that we are in a state of climate emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government, including local councils. We will undertake ambitious action and advocacy to reach our core goals, which are:

• to provide maximum protection for the community of Darebin and for people, civilisation and species globally, especially the most vulnerable

• to restore a safe climate at emergency speed by eliminating greenhouse emissions and enabling drawdown of excess carbon dioxide in the air

• to encourage research to find safe ways to protect people, species and civilisation from near-term dangerous temperatures, while zero emission and carbon dioxide drawdown strategies are being enacted

• to enable our community to be resilient in the face of any unavoidable dangerous climate impacts

• to engage, empower and mobilise governments, communities and organisations to take action on and achieve these goals with certainty and at emergency speed.

We recognise that together with our communities, other Councils and like-minded partners, we must take action to influence other levels of government, industries and organisations that have the greatest power to take urgent and appropriate action to respond to the climate emergency. This plan has been developed to reflect this commitment.

The development of this plan and the actions within follow a review of Council’s previous Climate Change Action Plans and Adaptation Plan and a community consultation process. In these previous plans, Council committed to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 for both Council and community emissions. Darebin Council will continue to aim for zero carbon for our Council and community in the short term, with a longer-term goal of moving beyond zero emissions.

We will be building on our progress so far, having reduced operational emissions by 48% from 2007 for electricity use in Council buildings. To reach our goal, we will be working to improve our energy efficiency, generating more of our own energy on-site, entering into new renewable energy purchasing arrangements and, as a last resort, offsetting the remaining emissions.

There has been an estimated 18% reduction in community emissions since Council adopted the Community Climate Change Action Plan in 2009. While the population has been growing, to date this has been countered with energy efficiency and the installation of solar photovoltaic panels (PV). There has also been a significant reduction in electricity emissions intensity.

This plan outlines the following nine key directions to reach our core goals:

1. Climate Emergency mobilisation and leadership
2. Energy efficiency
3. Renewable energy and fuel switching
4. Zero emissions transport
5. Consumption and waste minimisation
6. Fossil fuel divestment
7. Adaptation and resilience
8. Engaging the community
9. Darebin Energy Foundation

Highlights of the draft plan include:

• the development of a flagship Climate Emergency campaign and program, including a Climate Emergency conference

• the creation of the Darebin Energy Foundation to accelerate sustained and meaningful action with the community (residents, businesses, schools and other organisations) to eliminate Darebin’s greenhouse gas emissions, embed community resilience to climate change, and contribute in other ways to the global effort on climate change

• doubling the amount of solar PV in Darebin from 19,000kW to 38,000kw through an expanded Solar $aver program and school, business and community energy programs. These ambitious programs will involve an initial investment of $20 million by Council, the majority of which will be paid back through special rates schemes

• supporting households and businesses to be more energy efficient and more resilient to heatwaves and energy cost increases, including measures to minimise the urban heat island effect

• a continued emphasis on supporting our most vulnerable communities

• enhanced engagement and communication with our community including targeted and tailored approaches with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities

• Council leadership, with a review of all Council programs and policies to ensure alignment with Council’s Climate Emergency commitment, including improvements to buildings, renewable energy and fleet.

Advocacy is a key part of the plan, as State and Federal Government policy, legislation and funding will have the biggest impact on the Climate Emergency. These include renewable energy targets, emissions trading schemes, planning policy changes and minimum energy standards for homes, commercial buildings and vehicles. Collaborative campaigns involving partners such as other councils, educational institutions, industry groups, community organisations and our community will also be vital to effect real change.

We do not have all the answers; therefore, the plan also seeks to foster innovative solutions that respond to the Climate Emergency.”

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» Download the plan (84-page PDF document)

» For more information about local government strategies, or to help build a similar outcome in your own local area, see Local Government Campaigns