With no credible Federal approach to climate change in sight on the horizon, it’s time for our regional cities to step up to meet the challenge of climate change.
Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are escalating, with a recent report suggesting that our country could soon become one of the major global sources of climate pollution, largely due to our coal and gas exports.
But while national climate policy stagnates, many of our cities are moving forward with smart, ambitious climate and energy plans.
It’s not just the capital city big hitters like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne who are leading the charge – across the country, regional centres are emerging as climate leaders.
Regional cities with a strong, coordinated climate response can have a huge impact in accelerating renewable energy uptake in their area, and the local shift away from reliance on fossil fuel industries.
Take Newcastle as an example. Formerly known as one of the world’s busiest coal ports, this regional centre is being reborn as renewable energy powerhouse.
With projects in the works ranging from a 5MW solar farm on a former landfill site through to council plans to cut electricity consumption by almost a third by 2020, Newcastle shows how a concerted regional focus on climate solutions can achieve big results in a relatively short space of time.
Port Augusta, in South Australia, is another regional centre that’s charting a shift away from coal. The Port Augusta community suffered devastating job losses when the last of its brown coal plants was closed in 2016.
Just three years later, it’s become one of the country’s biggest producers of renewable power, boasting Australia’s largest solar farm and creating hundreds of new employment opportunities for local workers.
With many of our regional areas highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and also the impacts on economic security as the fossil fuel industry dwindles towards financial unviability, it’s critical that our regional leaders take action, now.
We can’t wait for national or state climate and energy policy to catch up – there simply isn’t time. Working together through alliances such as the Cities Power Partnership, and with their communities, our regional powerhouses can foster local innovation and investment in clean energy.
Together we can forge a prosperous, renewable-powered future.
David Craven is director of the Cities Power Partnership, Australia’s largest local government climate alliance.