As federal leadership stalls local councils pick up climate challenge

This article originally appeared in Eco News, view the article here.

They have been inspired by a new report from the Climate Council showing cities, urban centres and rural townships have the potential to slash energy emissions by a staggering 70 per cent.

At least 35 councils, representing around three million Australians, have already committed to the Cities Power Partnership, a Climate Council initiative to slash emissions at a local level.

Millions of local residents are already involved, from installing solar panels to taking action in their own backyards.

Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said local leadership was crucial and added in the absence of national action, we need to see more local action.

“This follows the United States example where 250 mayors have committed to the Paris Agreement in spite of the (President Donald) Trump withdrawal.”

She said she was frustrated by policy inaction from Australia’s federal government, led by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“This has been exacerbated by rising electricity prices, caused by more expensive gas, and a lack of policy,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“So we think it’s really important from a number of different angles for there to be greater action to bring on more renewable energy, more storage systems, more energy efficiency, and local sustainable transport solutions.”

Climate scientist Professor Will Steffen said it was entirely possible for local councils to make a real difference in reducing carbon emissions.

“The global estimate is, and I think this is true for Australia, that about 70 per cent of the total emissions can be tracked back to cities and towns,” Professor Steffen said.

“That’s where the action occurs in terms of economic activity, energy use, and so on.”

He agreed local councils were in a position to make big inroads to both national and global emissions at the city level.

“In fact, I think there were over 1000 city mayors in Paris who have gotten together and formed their own global network,” Professor Steffen said.

At the same time he wanted to encourage local residents to be smart with how they go about reducing their carbon emissions.

“It depends on where you are and what your situation is, but one of the common approaches is simple energy efficiency,” he said.

“That is, becoming much more efficient in how you use heat, light, how you generate electricity, and so on.

“And that’s one way we can learn from each other, because some councils have taken a lot of action in that area, and others haven’t.”

Climate change is often viewed as a global problem, but in Lane Cove on Sydney’s north shore, Mayor Deborah Hutchens agreed it was one that has to be tackled locally.

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