by Alison Worthington, (Deputy mayor of Eurobodalla Shire) Last week saw the launch of a new website, With Our Own Eyes Eurobodalla (WOOEE), a community arts initiative by locals who survived the 2019-2020 bushfires. This project emerged in 2020 to allow artists to express how climate change is impacting our region on the NSW south coast.
It’s still difficult for me to reflect on our Black Summer bushfire experience, but ultimately I choose to move forward with hope. Because hope is the feelings we drew on as we watched the first green growth unfurl in our burnt landscape – something the artwork on the WOOEE website takes me right back to. Our community continues to give me hope in the face of climate change because we are a community that takes action.
The fact is, there is a lot to be hopeful about. At the local government level, climate action is strong because councils know it is their responsibility to help protect the communities they represent.
For us here in Eurobodalla Shire, council’s climate initiatives have evolved from the success of the 2017-2021 Emissions Reduction Plan focussed on emissions from Council operations, to the imminent adoption of our 2022- 2032 Climate Action Plan. This new plan is our commitment to net zero emissions across Council operations by 2040 and the use of 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2030. It also outlines for the first time how Council can work with our community and businesses on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Other climate action includes being an enthusiastic member of the Cities Power Partnership , where we’ve joined 169 other councils around Australia in pledging to cut emissions. Supporting the South East Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA) in their feasibility study for the development of a community solar farm and battery in our Shire to build our energy resilience. And last but not least, the Shire has a power purchase agreement in place that sources 80 percent of Council’s energy needs from renewables.
The Eurobodalla has had its share of dangerous extreme weather events – nine since the Black Summer bushfires, including recent floods at the same time as the flooding catastrophe that hit Lismore and the Northern Rivers region. These disasters are driven by our changing climate.
The latest IPCC reports spell out in no uncertain terms that we urgently need governments to act quickly and decisively on cutting emissions drastically this decade if we want to keep temperatures - and the number of natural disasters that devastate communities like mine - from rising.
Australian communities right across the country will be increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change if we don’t. The conditions that drove the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-2020 will become normal. Flooding will become normal too. Our beloved Great Barrier Reef will be at risk of annual bleaching events. Heatwaves will become hotter, last longer and deaths related to heatwaves - which already kill more Australians than all other natural disasters combined - will increase.
It’s time for all levels of government in this country to work together to create policies that will drastically reduce emissions this decade. State and local governments as well as business, industry and the community, have been stepping up to the climate challenge. If we could get leadership at a federal level to do the same, it would turbocharge our efforts to lower emissions and at the same time drive new investment, jobs and economic growth. We already know what is required to deeply and immediately reduce emissions, and we know the technologies required are available and viable today.
Local governments lack the funding and support they need to rebuild their communities in a way that strengthens resilience and takes into account increasing climate risks. Councils are already working hard to slash emissions locally and prepare their communities for the mounting climate impacts, yet support from the federal government is sparse to say the least.
When we get our usual annual rainfall in just the first three months of the year, we know something is wrong. And when climate risk reports tell us that 1 in 25 homes in Australia will potentially be uninsurable by 2030, we again know something is wrong.
I read a quote recently by Major General Peter Dunn, a member of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, who said “The only way to stop a pot from boiling over is to turn the stove down. And that's the situation we're in with climate change.” Truer words were never spoken.