Net Zero 2030! Congratulations Ballarat!

IMG 4024 1 At their 24 March meeting, Ballarat City Council unanimously voted in favour of a motion put by Cr Belinda Coates for a Ballarat community wide net zero emissions target for 2030.

In a great demonstration of bipartisanship, Cr Amy Johnson, seconder of the motion, commended Cr Coates for her advocacy on emissions reduction.  

Thank you and well done to all who wrote and/or called councillors about the importance of setting a community net zero target. But please, don't stop now. We still need to remind Council that we expect them to back this target with a detailed plan, and to allocate funding for that, when it comes to the upcoming annual budget and council plan.

 

The following piece, arguing for a community net zero target was published on the Opinion page of The Courier on Saturday 20 March.

Think global, act local: why Ballarat should adopt a zero community target 

For many of us, a masked boy against a tangerine sky sheltering in a boat off Mallacoota beach, was the indelible imprint of new year’s eve 2020. Climate change before our very eyes – up and down the east coast, pyro-cumulonimbus clouds igniting firestorms, ripping through rainforest, incinerating 82 per cent of the World Heritage listed, Greater Blue Mountains area, driving endangered species to the brink of extinction, if not beyond. Devastating lives, livelihoods and communities, Black Summer shocked the nation – and the world. But then came Covid taking its terrible toll. And now it seems we may be at risk of simply accepting this disturbing new climate reality, reassuring ourselves that droughts and bushfire have always come and gone in this ancient land – of pretending it’s normal, even though we know it’s not.

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 1.5ºC Report advising that humanity had 12 years in which to set emissions reductions in a trajectory to meet the zero 2050 target – a trajectory requiring sharp cuts by 2030. Now of course that timeline for action has been reduced to just nine short years. 

So news that the Ballarat City Council will be considering a zero community target for greater Ballarat when it meets next Wednesday, should be welcomed by all. Consultation on the target date by which community emissions must reduce to net zero, plus a Plan – presumably with interim targets and sector by sector goals showing how this can be achieved – will follow in due course.

This city has, of course, not been lacking in action on climate change. Back in 2018, Ballarat City Council voted to endorse the Declaration of Climate Emergency – an initiative launched in Victoria, which has since been signed by 1,890 jurisdictions and local governments covering 826 million citizens. It was also in 2018 that Ballarat joined the Cities Power Partnership, a local government climate network. And then in the following year, Council unanimously endorsed the Carbon Neutrality and 100% Renewables Action Plan with a 2025 target for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from council operations to net zero. This month’s development, a zero community target, will enable the Council to build on these initiatives, by implementing the final item in its Action Plan: ‘Empowering communities.’

Naysayers will likely deride the value of a Zero Ballarat target as having little impact on the global problem of climate change. This line of argument routinely references the world’s top five emitters – China, US, India, Russia and Japan, who far exceed the rest of the world in the scale of their emissions – while neglecting the cumulative significance of smaller emitters like Australia, who collectively constitute a sizeable proportion of the problem. In the spirit of the concept, Think global, act local, a more compelling argument for many of us, is that if we don’t act on the IPCC’s advice, can we really expect others to?  

Ultimately of course, we have little to lose and everything to gain by setting a community target and working collaboratively to achieve carbon neutrality. Whatever the costs of action, the costs of inaction are far greater and more devastating for future generations. The fact that air pollution from GHGs has long been a serious public health problem, triggering 3000 deaths annually – exacerbating lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and stroke – means that cutting emissions will have an immediate health benefit. The other costs of climate inaction – extinction of native flora and fauna, food and water security issues, not mention the risks to coastal real estate and the impact on everyday life and outdoor sports – have been widely detailed. 

On the upside, however, the way in which we respond to this crisis has potential to foster prosperity in our region. By taking bold action now and becoming a leader in driving down community emissions, Ballarat can demonstrate green credentials and optimise the geographical advantage of being in the Western Victoria Renewable Energy Zone (REZ). Given the anticipated investment in clean energy in this region, becoming a carbon neutral community will also be good for Ballarat business.

Only by setting targets at international, national, state AND local levels will we build the momentum for the level of change we need to decarbonise the economy.

With global and local imperatives at play here, we need strategies to integrate our Covid economic recovery with our social and environmental needs, to accelerate emissions cuts.

An ambitious target with a community-wide plan will bring other benefits, facilitating cross-sector collaboration via engagement with the challenge, forging resilience, thereby truly ‘empowering the community’. Surely we owe this to our children and grandchildren and all who follow. Carpe diem –Ballarat Net Zero 2030. 

Mary Debrett
President, BREAZE Inc.