Should East Gippsland Shire declare a Climate Emergency? by Nola Kelly

First published in the Great Eastern Mail April 23

It does seem that East Gippsland Shire Council (EGSC) is making headway with their move towards lowering council emissions as council managed facilities have avoided releasing 141 tons of CO2 emissions in the past year while at the same time saving ratepayers money. However if you take a look at The Municipal Emissions Snapshot for East Gippsland it indicates that there is only a very slight reduction in CO2 emissions for the past 3 years, and certainly not enough to meet the 2030 targets. It appears that the big emitters in the area are agriculture at 300,000t, then transport at 139,000t with residential emissions from households still at 126,000t. Direct emissions from council are a very small percentage of the overall community emissions so behaviour change at the individual and household level becomes critical.

The first duty of government is to protect its people and climate change is an existential threat that is intensifying far greater than most people realise. Engaging at a household level is an effective place for councils to start as they are after all best placed to work directly with their constituents to increase awareness and understanding of the changes we all need to make to tackle the climate crisis we are currently in. Everyone must be encouraged to see taking action to reduce our emissions as the normal and necessary thing to do, and councils are best placed to understand local conditions and the ways to assist their community to work together to achieve a better future. What could be better than knowing we are all working together to achieve the same critical goal, and where better to go for advice than the local council.

In Victoria 41 out of the 79 Councils have already declared a Climate Emergency for their area after considering the risk assessment data. There are compelling reasons for East Gippsland Shire Council to now join the many other government bodies representing well over 1 billion people worldwide who have already declared a Climate Emergency.

The following are a few of these reasons –

1.         It would demonstrate that Council is acting in accordance with the Victorian Local Government Act to undertake climate mitigation and risk management while seeking the best outcomes for current and future generations.

2.         It would help to engage the community to ensure adequate preparation for increased weather variability, reduced water availability, and the increased risk of bushfires and flash flooding.

3.         It would demonstrate bold leadership and decisive, strong actions to tackle the tasks required at a local level.

4.         It would demonstrate that they are aware of the rapid progression of climate change and that they care about ensuring a safe future for constituents.

5.         It would indicate to the community the importance of taking immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change, and when combined with appropriate education would foster a higher level of preparedness and resilience.

6.         It would provide reassurance to all people, but especially the young, that we have a plan and are prepared which would reduce the level of fear experienced.

7.         It would indicate the scale of the problem we face and the speed of the response required, after all we must dramatically reduce emissions this decade, and there are only seven and a half years left.

8.         It would demonstrate a commitment to preserving and caring for the natural environment and the areas so loved by East Gippslanders.

9.         It would demonstrate that Council is keeping up with the times and are in tune with world developments, as well as show that they wish to reduce the problems that will be exacerbated by further delay.

10.       It would demonstrate to any people who are not yet ready to believe the overwhelming science about the reality and consequences of man made climate change, that this is a real and urgent problem with potentially dire consequences if we fail to act quickly.

11.       It would assist farmers to address the issues they face from the growing climate instability that threatens food security and productivity in the area.

12.       It would help raise awareness of the risk mitigation required for properties located in areas where they face either becoming uninsurable or the insurance becoming too expensive to afford.