Much of the recent political debate involving renewables and fossil fuels has focused on the actions of federal and state governments. This fails to recognise that a significant amount can be done to tackle climate change at the local government level.
Through urban planning and advocacy, councils have the power to reduce the impact of carbon-intensive operations on our communities. Across Australia, a growing movement of local governments is doing just that.
In Newcastle, we’re doing things smarter and more sustainably. As a vulnerable coastal community, addressing the challenges of a changing climate is vital for the future wellbeing of our residents and economy.
We recently finalised a strategic plan that combines flood gates, pumps and levees to protect low-lying, harbour-side suburbs in the event of significant sea-level rises.
Now, we’ve become the first council to make our pledge as part of the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership. We have committed to five key actions to increase our renewable energy capacity, create sustainable transport options and improve energy efficiency. This includes development of a 5mW solar farm on old landfill to offset electricity used for council operations.
We’ve made our buildings more energy efficient, installed solar PV and battery storage systems at libraries and cultural facilities, and we’re now upgrading street lights with LEDs while implementing a range of water, waste and fuel efficiency projects.
The International Energy Agency said cities and towns could deliver 70 per cent of the emissions reductions needed to stay within the two per cent global warming limit set by the Paris agreement.
Newcastle City Council is proud to be leading the way.
Jeremy Bath is interim chief executive of Newcastle City Council.
This article first appeared in the Launceston Examiner on 4 September 2017