Cr Rob Eldridge

By Colin MacGillivray

MITCHELL Shire Council has taken a first step towards declaring a climate emergency after unanimously voting for officers to prepare a report outlining its implications.

At last week’s ordinary council meeting, Cr Rob Eldridge moved a notice of motion for council to receive a report detailing the effects of declaring a climate emergency and possible future actions.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council declared a climate emergency earlier this year. At the time, 33 of Victoria’s 79 councils had already declared a climate emergency.

Cr Eldridge said climate change represented a significant threat not only for the municipality, but the whole world.

“Climate change is a serious threat to our future, not just for myself, but for my kids, grandkids and their kids,” he said.

“It’s an undisputed fact of science that [the global temperature] is warming, it is caused by human emissions and the greenhouse gases will result in a temperature that will cause deaths in the future.

“It will include heatwaves, flash flooding, intense storms, drought and bushfires. It will include loss of life, fiscal and mental health impacts, reduce primary production, property damage, coastal inundation and loss of essential infrastructure for power, transport and communications.”

Cr Eldridge said there were two facets to council’s response – acting as global citizens and treating it like a true emergency, similar to bushfires and floods, to try and mitigate the effects.

Cr Louise Bannister backed Cr Eldridge’s motion, describing it as a ‘responsible move for council’.

“[Declaring a climate emergency] includes the responsibility of looking at the financial cost to council of doing this, but then weighing up the actual emergency, which is climate change, and how that’s going to impact us in the future,” she said.

Education the key

Cr Bannister encouraged people who were unsure about the science of climate change to educate themselves further.

“Over the last 400,000 years, the [current] CO2 in the atmosphere is double what it has ever been,” she said.

“I think if that is not evidence enough that humans have had an impact on climate change, I don’t know what else could convince you.

“We need to look into this now. The world should have looked into this years ago, so I think it’s a responsible move for council to get this report and consider it.”

Cr Nathan Clark said moves to mitigate climate change would open opportunities for new industries.

“The drive behind it is simply fossil fuels, and we have alternatives to fossil fuel now,” he said.

“There is plenty that can be solved by technology, but also we have to think about how we use our energy.”

Cr Bill Chisholm said as a rural resident of the shire, he and other landholders had already seen the effects of climate change.

“I would like to see fire mitigation factored into the policy, because we know in [2019-20] with the Black Summer fires, three billion animals were killed,” he said.

“Fire danger is directly a result of climate change, and I’d like to see what we’re doing to mitigate that as well as heat stress and all the other things that are coming in with climate change.”