LEAP of faith on emissions

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River is seeking public feedback on an ambitious plan to cut its emissions by 65 per cent and source 50 per cent of its power needs from renewable energy sources by 2030.

A new climate action plan will be advertised in coming weeks to replace the Shire’s outdated Local Energy Action Plan, with the new targets developed in line with last year’s Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change warning of 1.5C increases by 2100.

The plan will draw upon ratepayer funds to meet what it calls “a significant uptake in solar PV installation ... required as a means of reaching this target”.

The plan follows the council’s “mainstreaming” of climate change after its declaration of a formal “climate emergency” in September, with the proposed new targets to inform future Shire policies and decisions.

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However, similar targets to reduce community and business emissions — originally contained in the LEAP — are no longer included.

Instead, “other sectors, including residential and business and environmental groups in the community, are encouraged to develop their own versions of a climate action plan”. The report noted 21 local governments had called on the State Government to adopt the same reduction targets.

While the Shire must cut 1050 tonnes of greenhouse emissions by 2030, the community must cut 52,300 tonnes in total, with hopes the Augusta-Margaret River Clean Community Energy hybrid project at Scott River or other renewable projects will make those targets feasible.

Eleven key projects put forward during May’s climate action summit were incorporated into the plan, but required residents to take charge.

In the report’s preface, Shire president Ian Earl said there were financial benefits to reducing emissions.

“It has been suggested local governments have the capacity to influence activities that contribute up to 50 per cent of our national greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.

“When combined, the efforts of local government and their communities can make a real difference. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions also has other benefits for local government and their communities, from improving local air quality and traffic congestion, to reducing energy costs for residents and businesses, to generating new jobs, industries and incomes for local government.”

Also in the report, chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown talks up the Shire playing “a lead role in reducing emissions from our community”.

“This (plan) identifies a wide range of actions to be undertaken by the Shire organisation, and also actions to assist the community to reduce emissions and achieve carbon-reduction targets,” she says.

“The (plan) has been prepared in partnership with the community, and the Shire looks forward to working with the community to achieve broad, positive and proactive change.

“Such actions are likely to bring environmental, social and economic benefits for all residents of the shire, now and in the future.”

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