SEARING HEAT IN MELBOURNE this week should be a wake-up call to city leaders to take action on climate change to protect vulnerable residents, according to the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership.
Vulnerable low-income residents in suburbs such as Sunshine and Dandenong, especially those with few trees, are some of the hardest hit by extreme heat, with data from health services showing an increase in hospital visits and ambulance calls from lower socio-economic parts of Victoria.
Climate Council Acting CEO Dr Martin Rice said that the extreme heat hitting Melbourne should be a reminder to city leaders to get serious about tackling climate change.
“Climate change is cranking up the intensity of extreme heat in Victoria, with sweltering temperatures becoming the new normal. We are seeing heatwaves starting earlier, lasting longer and occurring more often. And the number of record hot days has doubled over the last 50 years.”
“Local councils are the front line of extreme heat and will need to roll out critical measures in the short term to protect their residents and workers, whilst ramping up renewables, sustainable transport and energy efficiency to help combat worsening climate change.”
“Vulnerable people, particularly the elderly and children, are at risk during times of extreme heat and city leaders need to act swiftly so that it doesn’t have deadly consequences.”
Greater Dandenong Councillor Matthew Kirwan said that many residents in his area were particularly at risk from heatwaves, with soaring power bills leaving them unable to effectively cool their homes.
“We’re one of Victoria’s poorest local government areas. I’ve heard from a number of locals that they’re afraid to turn on the air-conditioning as they can’t afford the power bill.”
“As a council, we need to act on climate change and extreme heat to protect our residents. We’re working on an urban tree strategy to increase tree cover – appropriately placed trees in the residential landscape can create up to 58% in savings on daytime air conditioning.”
“We’ve also joined the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, and are working to help more residents and businesses to install solar power as a clean, cheap and reliable source of energy during extreme weather conditions.”
Local government programs that help vulnerable residents install low-cost solar systems are one way that councils can help people beat the heat.
The Solar Savers program, started by City of Darebin, has so far helped over 2,000 pensioners to install solar systems in their homes, enabling them to more effectively cool their properties on extreme heat days.
Darebin Mayor Susan Rennie said that solar power was becoming increasing popular with pensioners, who are one of the groups most vulnerable to extreme heat impacts.
“Solar power is ideal for pensioners, as they often own their own homes and are interested in energy and money saving. Through Solar Savers we’re protecting them from the extreme heat we’re seeing as a result of climate change, while helping them to save with cheap, clean and reliable solar energy,” she said.
The Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership has made recommendations to city leaders to protect residents from climate-change fuelled extreme heat days:
- Plan for more shade, greenery, urban trees and open space in suburbs, particularly where there is high housing density.
- Support residents to install energy efficiency measures and domestic solar systems to help them to effectively cool their homes.
- Invest in sustainable transport options – the dark tarmac of roads is a key factor in creating an urban heat island.
For more information contact Fiona Ivits, Media Advisor on 0432 368 714 or [email protected]council.org.au