Zero Emissions Ballarat 2030: Why Local Targets Matter

2022 suburbs aerial edit2If you are concerned about climate change you are probably aware that we have less than seven years to get the world's emissions on the right trajectory to stabilise global warming at under 1.5C – for the safest climate we can now achieve. It seems fair to say we've reached a point in the pursuit of carbon neutrality, where every jurisdiction should do its best. 

Climate action at the international level has been chaotic, while climate action at national level, dubbed 'climate wars' has been ugly. In Australia the most effective level of action has come from state governments setting state emissions reductions and renewable energy targets. But there has also been considerable action at local government level – in cities and communities around the globe.  

If you haven't heard about the Zero Emissions Ballarat (ZEB) target – an aspirational community-wide target of net zero by 2030, endorsed by City of Ballarat Council in 2021 –you may find yourself pleasantly engaged.

The ZEB target and Draft Plan are not simply mandates above from Town Hall. They're the product of community action and consultation via the Regional Sustainability Alliance Ballarat (RSAB), an environmental advisory/reference group for the City of Ballarat. As a member of RSAB, along with around 20 various environmental and other local groups and regional institutions, BREAZE put Zero Carbon Ballarat on the agenda for discussion in 2020. A subsequent council report led to a motion by Cr Coates, seconded by Cr Johnson, unanimously endorsed by Council on 24 March 2021. The Draft Plan for implementing the community-wide target, also developed via community consultation, is now available on MySay Ballarat - closing 28 August.

The Draft ZEB Plan outlines strategies and actions for the Ballarat community – business, householders and industry – along with case studies, to help us reduce our 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ironbark Sustainability's online Snapshot Tool offers a sector by sector breakdown of Ballarat's GHGs. While the electricity and gas consumption of commerce and industry comprises a large proportion of Ballarat's total emissions there is still much scope for local residents as householders to cut community emissions, by installing rooftop solar, making homes more energy efficient and using consumer power to reward those businesses that embrace carbon neutrality.

As a community, we can't afford to sit back and wait for someone to come and do this for us. We need to show our support for the changes that will decarbonise our economy: Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) in the housing sector; low emissions public transport; transition to all-electric homes as our gas water-heaters, stoves and space heaters reach their use-by dates; council assistance for community bulk buys for roof-top solar and heat-pumps; and energy efficient re-fits for low-income householders. And the other reward of course will be cheaper energy bills as buildings become more energy efficient and as the national electricity grid becomes greener with increased integration of renewables

Emissions Reductions targets have become synonymous with climate politics in this country but there is reason to hope the 'climate wars' are over. There's our recent 'climate election' and it is now impossible to ignore the impacts of climate change and our own inaction – this year's catastrophic repeat flooding in coastal NSW and Queensland, drought and record temperatures of 40+C across Europe, seeing once navigable rivers dry up, and more out of control wild fires devouring forests and communities across Colorado and California. 

Think global, act local, the mantra of community action, can seem a stretch to some. The reality is, however, if we don't do our small and apparently insignificant bit to reduce the world's greenhouse gas emissions, then we have no right to expect others to. 

An ambitious target, Net Zero Emissions Ballarat 2030 is the result of community collaboration and sustained bipartisan climate action by the City of Ballarat Council. Certainly achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 will be challenging. However, it is important that we give it our best shot. And there are plenty of reasons for doing that – not least being the right of the next generation to a world with a stable climate and safe environment.

This article was published in The Courier on 23/8/22
Mary Debrett
President, BREAZE Inc.