By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greater Dandenong has declared a “climate emergency” and now needs to take action – such as the mandatory requirement of zero-emission buildings, says councillor Matthew Kirwan.
He and nine other councillors endorsed the declaration at a meeting on 29 January.
It calls for an “emergency response” from all tiers of government to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
About 85 other local councils in Australia, including Shire of Cardinia, have taken a similar declaration.
As part of the motion, the council will spread the word amongst its diverse multicultural communities as well as support measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Cr Sean O’Reilly, who moved the declaration, argued that local councils should not be “silent” on the “potential existential risks” of climate change and increased climate volatility.
The council faced increased risk to community assets such as more stress on drain networks and more water purchases to maintain parks and gardens.
Its “young, old and infirm” residents were also more at risk of heat stress, Cr O’Reilly said.
Cr Kirwan said the council needed to back its words with “emergency action”.
“No longer can we take the attitude we’re going to take action in a business plan in 18 months’ time.
“We need to take action now”.
With perhaps a 10-year window to cap global warming, Cr Kirwan said the council should revisit its decision to dump its urban forest strategy in December 2019.
The strategy would aim for greater tree canopy on public and private land in the council region. More trees would help cool down streets as well as absorb carbon dioxide, Cr Kirwan said.
At the moment, Greater Dandenong is one of the most denuded Melbourne councils.
Councils could also exert a “huge role” through building standards in its planning scheme, Cr Kirwan said.
Greater Dandenong was one of 17 metro Melbourne councils that places mandatory efficiency standards on new buildings.
It is also helping fund research driven by City of Moreland into stricter ‘zero-emission’ building standards.
The council was also moving towards sourcing its power from solar and wind farms. Cr Kirwan added that the council should aim for a zero-emission vehicle fleet.
After the meeting, Cr Kirwan denied the declaration was “tokenistic”.
“There’s a huge amount we can do as a local government if we back it up with climate emergency action.”
In opposition, Cr Tim Dark said he was taking a phone call outside the chamber during the vote.
“I think the role of tackling of the climate emergency is not a role of local government,” he said after the meeting.
“It’s a joke and a waste of ratepayer resources.”
Cr Dark said such action would increase cost-of-living pressures such as energy bills on the “most vulnerable” in the community.
“It goes against what we should be voting for in a low socio-economic area.”