Councils take lead on climate change resilient communities

Local councils across Australia are preparing their communities for climate change via a range of actions including information sessions from environmental psychologists to curbing their emissions sources to conducting risk and insurance assessments.

Taking urgent action on climate change was a major theme among the resolutions passed at the National General Assembly of Local Government last month. Since then several more councils have passed climate change emergency declarations, including the Cities of Melbourne and Sydney.

ALGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin, will convey local councils’ concerns about climate change and resilience next week when he meets senior Federal Government figures including Environment Minister, Sussan Ley.

State Governments are partnering with Local Government Associations in NSW and Queensland, for example, on a range of projects to build communities’ climate change resilience.

Ten NSW councils ranging from rural to metropolitan councils have shared in $1.16m worth of grants in the second round of the State Government’s ‘Increasing Resilience to Climate Change’ scheme.

“The IRCC grants are being delivered in partnership with Local Government NSW and will range between $30,000 – $120,000 for individual councils to implement specific climate change adaptation and resilience projects,” said Office of Environment and Heritage Director of Climate Resilience and Net Zero Emissions, Stephen Bygrave.

“These projects include asset or building upgrades to minimise climate impacts like extreme heat and floods, community engagement programs that build capacity and awareness, detailed cost benefit analysis, specifications to support implementation of adaptation actions.”

Wingecarribee Shire Council, in the NSW Southern Highlands, said it provides high-quality drinking water to shire residents, which could be jeopardized during weather extremes such as a protracted heat wave.

It will use the $50,000 grant to “conduct a feasibility study exploring how portable water treatment units could be used to treat raw water from alternate dam sources,” said Tim Day, the council’s Water, Sewer and Drainage Asset Coordinator.

“As part of the study, we’ll look at scalability and determine the practicality of using similar methods at other dam sources.”

In Queensland, there are more than 30 councils participating in the LGAQ and Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s Queensland Climate Resilient Councils Program. The members range from metropolitan councils in the southeast corner to councils in the state’s remote far west

All Queensland councils are eligible for a free face-to-face briefing and governance assessment in which council and its management teams learn about the concepts including legal liabilities, finance and insurance costs and economic and social considerations from climate change.

Meanwhile, Victorian councils are also operating a variety of projects to help their communities respond to climate change.

Some councils have installed solar panels on their buildings or helped invest in community-run renewable energy schemes.

Yarra Ranges Council, for example, will host a presentation next month called ‘Community solutions in a changing climate’.

It’s aimed at people who are concerned about climate change, and follows an earlier presentation called farming and agricultural solutions for a changing climate.

Utilities too are adapting and moving to save money. For example, a sewerage treatment plant on the VIC-NSW border that consumes one quarter of the Victorian North East Water Corporation’s total energy requirements will soon be solar-powered.

The company announced on 25 July that Wodonga’s treatment plant will in future be powered by a 3-megawatt solar farm comprising 10,000 solar panels. Excess electricity will be fed into the grid and off-set other treatment plants.

Image: Annual mean temperature anomaly in Australia, 1910-2018, by the Bureau of Meteorology