Derwent Valley Council declares a climate emergency

THE push for the Derwent Valley Council to declare a “climate emergency” was approved by six of the eight municipal councillors at last week’s monthly meeting. The vote followed unprecedented scenes when for the first time members of the public were permitted to lobby councillors and personally present information to each of them on an agenda item at that night’s meeting.

Historically, the public has not been permitted to lobby within the council chambers on a current agenda item. More recently, the Public Question Time policy approved by the current council specifically forbids statements being made, lest they influence the vote. Speaking after the meeting, Mayor Michelle Dracoulis said she had taken advice on the matter and had been told members of the public could be invited to speak to the meeting.

After considering a report by executive manager Quecha Horning, councillors voted by a majority that the council:
A. Notes the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and current commitments to address climate change are not ambitious enough to limit warming to 1.5° Celsius above the pre-industrial level—a threshold scientists believe is necessary to avoid more catastrophic impacts including biodiversity decline.
B. Declares that we are in a state of climate emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government, including local councils, to mitigate the worst of impacts from occurring.
C. Resolves to urgently act on the climate emergency within our capacity to do so by committing to:
i) Write to all State and Federal parliamentarians whose electorates include the Derwent Valley and to the Prime Minister, the federal opposition leader, and the Tasmanian Premier, expressing Council’s position on the climate emergency and urging immediate further action at all levels of Government, including additional resources for Local Government to respond to the emergency appropriately;
ii) Conduct a greenhouse gas (GHG) audit on Council operations to baseline our understanding of the sources of our GHG emissions, costs of maintaining these assets, and subsequently where mitigation actions should be targeted, including those that could provide cost savings to the Council;
iii) Engage with our community, staff, climate experts, and other stakeholders to develop a Climate Emergency Action Plan in line with the review of the Council’s Strategic Plan; and
iv) Develop a climate emergency page on the Council website to provide our community with clear information about what Council is doing in its response to the emergency and the most effective ways community members can join us in taking climate emergency action.

M s Horning’s report gave the following definition for the term ‘climate change’: The climate emergency refers to catastrophic changes to the world’s climate caused by human activity and resulting in a loss of a safe climate, which threatens all life on earth.

About one in five Australian councils have declared a climate emergency since 2016, following the lead of Victoria’s Darebin City Council. Ms Horning said a previous motion to develop a climate change policy and strategy in 2019 had failed to win support at the Derwent Valley Council, which had stalled any significant progress on this issue until now.

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