Nearly 5 years ago (Jan 15) I made a ‘sustainability’ submission to the East Gippsland Shire specifically on global warming listing 22 possible actions with high, medium and low priorities. In some of these areas the shire has done well such as in their solar panel program and the adoption of various energy efficiencies. They continue to do so. But they are not leading. Leadership implies doing or adopting something before others – that is being first. In the case of the ‘climate emergency’ Bass Coast Shire has lead the way in Gippsland and other shires, such as Baw Baw, are considering making the declaration.
Some suggestions for the East Gippsland Shire include the following:
1. Declare a climate Emergency. There is currently a petition circulating amongst residents and tourists requesting this.
2. Appoint a full-time Climate Emergency Officer to oversee, advise and co-ordinate shire climate actions.
3. Amongst other activities the Officer would examine closely and identify climate implications in all Shire motions, actions, regulations etc.
4. A substantial increase in public education on the climate emergency and global warming’s implications to our region – starting from a very low base.
5. Plan for rapid change in employment in the ‘old industries’ – oil and gas and timber – and request State government funds in assisting a ‘just transition’ in the affected areas of our local economy.
6. Work to make all shire activities carbon neutral as soon as possible. This can be done in conjunction with a carbon audit of all shire activities.
7. Fast track and assist where possible the new industries including renewable energy, electric transport, reforestation, recycling.
8. Boost planning and organisation for climate induced extreme weather emergencies – catastrophic bushfires, drought, floods – for resilience and adaption where necessary.
9. Adopt a wide range of practical applications within current shire operations. Examples include boosting suitable tree cover in towns for shade, experimenting with reflective paint on roofs and roads, changing council building regulations on eaves, reflective white roofs and road surfaces etc. etc.
10. Co-ordinate shire bank and super fund investments so that they are not investing in the old economy or fossil fuel industries.
This list by no means exhaustive. Some of these actions can be implemented immediately, others will be in the planning stage for some time to come. But ‘emergency’ implies urgent action across the board. As some commentators have noted ‘this is bigger than World War II’. Leadership, involving substantial political courage, is essential in all climate emergency activities.