by Paul Campobasso
In late September a petition found its way to Melbourne City Council’s offices, reflecting the passionate voices of 31,000 local constituents.
However, this petition was different to most others. Rather than being critical or in opposition to a specific policy, as is often the nature of petitions, this one was instead massively positive, having been arranged by the Climate Council to showcase public support for local government’s approach on climate change.
Since the 1990s climate change has been a hot topic in Australia and over the years it’s only become increasingly heated, as arguments for and against the science often reach boiling point.
Though some of our political leaders in Canberra maintain an icy stance towards action on climate change, the local council, on the other hand, has evidently warmed to the idea of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In September, for example, City of Melbourne became one of the first Australian cities (the other being Sydney) to comply with the Compact of Mayors.
This global coalition currently sees 254 city mayors from around the world unite to take collaborative and meaningful action in reducing the greenhouse gases responsible for causing erratic and detrimental weather patterns.
“You don’t get to be the most liveable city in the world without a strong focus on sustainability and prosperity,” Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said in an October media release. “The City of Melbourne is committed to achieving Zero Net (Greenhouse Gas) Emissions by 2020, and has a target to source 25 per cent of the municipality’s electricity from renewables by 2018.”
To achieve its ambitious goal Melbourne City Council has a number of initiatives in full swing, aimed at greening-up areas in and around the CBD — including North and West Melbourne.
Arguably the biggest and most recent initiative involves a $30 million upgrade of public lighting, which has been funded by the Federal Government and will be rolled out in collaboration with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which seeks to increase investment in clean technologies.
Announced in mid-October, this program aims to upgrade more than 16,000 public streetlights to energy-efficient LED globes, while also installing 300kW solar panels on council and community facilities.
The council is hoping that these upgraded streetlights will consume less than half the energy they’re currently using, saving the City of Melbourne $1.1 million a year and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 110,000 tonnes over the next decade. According to the Lord Mayor, this is equivalent to “taking almost 2800 cars off Melbourne roads for a year or planting more than 13,300 trees”.
Also in October, Melbourne City Council announced a new partnership with The University of Melbourne, to establish ‘The City of Melbourne Chair in Resilient Cities’. According to an official statement from the council, this joint project aims to “strengthen Melbourne’s resilience in the face of sustainability challenges including global warming”.
These initiatives join existing programs within the council’s environmental portfolio for reducing City of Melbourne’s greenhouse gas emissions, while also adapting the city to some of the effects of climate change, including flooding and heatwaves. The council’s other programs include climate-neutral water-saving schemes, solar panel rebate programs and green roof and wall initiatives.
The council has demonstrated some leadership in green building design as well, with its 2006 construction of Council Hoouse 2, or CH2, a six-star Green Star energy and water efficient office building.
While environmentally-minded Melbourne residents can take some comfort that their council has taken a leading role in climate change action, it’s hard to say whether these programs are strong or far-reaching enough to turn the City of Melbourne into the sustainability hub it envisions.
This is especially the case when considering that Melbourne presently produces around 6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas each year, signifying a difficult slog to a climate-neutral future by the set date of 2020.