Alternatively, download the document via the following direct link -
David Blore, BSFG Vice President
for BSFG Committee
Benalla Sustainable Future Group Submission to Benalla Rural City Council Climate and Environment Strategy - 11 July 2023
Alternatively, download the document via the following direct link -
David Blore, BSFG Vice President
for BSFG Committee
I watched the recording of the meeting of the Council hearing of the BSFG Climate Emergency Petition at the Benalla Council Planning Meeting which was streamed on Wednesday September 29th. It was interesting to see during the meeting there were several questions from Councillors about determining council emissions. Councillor Puna Gunaratne requested an emissions report for the review of the Climate Adaptation Plan 2013-2025.
I was also reassured by the second point of mayor Danny Claridge’s motion at the end of the meeting, ‘That council recognises that climate change is one of the most significant issues that will impact the social, cultural, economic and environmental health and wellbeing of our community and will act accordingly with all policies and programs of the council’.
After approaching Peter Holmes about communicating with council about emissions accounting, I sent an email to all Councillors, the CEO and the Manager Economic Development and Environment mentioning protocols and tools for councils to do a community wide emissions inventory and highlighting work being done both locally and globally by other cities and local governments. Such as Cities Power Partnership (Benalla Council is a Member), ICLEI Internatioal Council of Local Governments for Sustainability, Global Covenant Of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and C40 Cities.
Our Renewable Energy Benalla action group is based on a transition strategy developed through John Lloyd's work with Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). This strategy provided baseline stationary emissions for a 100% Renewables Benalla by 2028. These emissions are based on the GHG Protocol Standard for Cities, the GPC. Since producing the Transition Strategy BZE has, with local government specialists Ironbark Sustainability, developed a Snapshot Climate Tool to provide all Councils in Australia with an online emissions profile.
The GPC enables organisations to determine a citywide emissions inventory based on Tier 3 data which is local activity data and locally sourced conversion factors, or actual activity-specific local carbon emissions data. Such data can be time consuming and expensive to obtain.
The Snapshot Climate Tool however uses Tier 1 data which is largely modelled data, with little or no local activity data available (these methods take state, national, or international data, and scale them to the municipality using a relevant metric). The Tool provides a profile not an inventory however the data is sufficiently accurate to provide councils with an insight into community emissions. The GPC also provides guidance on a Council Operations emissions inventory.
My email to Councillors resulted in replies from Mayor Danny Claridge, and Councillors Gail O’Brien, Puna Gunaratne and Justin King each mentioning they were looking forward to working with BSFG. I took the opportunity to reply to all Councillors mentioning Ironbark’s website article on Science Derived Targets for Australian Councils and attached an emissions reduction target for Benalla I had requested from Ironbark.
One Councillor is looking forward to working towards achieving a net zero Benalla although the boundaries for this have not been established. Would it be for council operations emissions, or the city-wide emissions reported by the Snapshot Climate tool? I provided Councillors with a link to the 2021 Australian Local Government Climate Review which provides a comprehensive analysis of climate change actions, barriers and opportunities facing councils and communities.
Despite the unsatisfactory outcome of the Climate Emergency Petition to Council we may now have the opportunity to work with Council to support and work with the community towards achieving a Net Zero Benalla.
This article was originally published in BSFG Newsletter #31, November 2021
Letters to the Editor "We will continue to advocate for action" - Peter Holmes - Benalla Ensign 13 October 2021
"Adaptation - Addresses the impacts of climate change - more frequent heatwave events, intense downpours and harsher fire weather.
Mitigation - Addresses the causes of climate change - reduces the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."
At last Wednesday's Planning and Development Committee meeting, Benalla councillors wee finally considering a peition, originally received by council in April this year, from 600 local residents to declare a climate emergency, and to develop plans and actions that would enable Benalla to become a net-zero emissions community by 2030.
At the meeting, councillors were addressed by two of the Benalla P-12 College student captains, Jessica Patterson and Lachie Sands. Benalla GP Dr Gerard Brownstein, and Benalla Sustainable Future Group (BSFG) president Peter Holmes.
Councillors asked many questions of the presenters, and all indicated their acknowledgement that climate change was indeed a threat to our community's future health, social and economic wellbeing.
However, at the conclusion of the discussion, a motion was moved and passed by all councillors that the petition be noted, that the council recognizes that climate change is one of the most significant issues that will impact the social, cultural and economic and environmental health and wellbeing of our community and will act accordingly with all policies and programs of the council, and that council further considers its position on climae change during the upcoming review of the Benalla Rural City Climate Change Adaptation and Action Plan 2013-2025.
BSFG, and no doubt the wider community know that we are very disappointed with this response from our elected leaders.
Despite overwhelming worldwide evidence of the catastrophic climate-related events in recent years, and the most recent IPCC report noting that "this is the last decade the world has in which to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions in order to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius", council's motion contains no indication of urgency whatsoever, and no demonstrable target to work towards in relation to reducing greenhouse emissions.
In fact, the motion, in referring to the review of Council's Climate Change Adaptation Policy, 2013-2025, as its principal document of reference for climate change, basically indicates that council will make plans about what to do "after the hourse has bolted", rather than developing plans to stop the horse bolting.
We need a Climate Change MItigation Plan to be developed, a point that was made consistently by speakers on Wednesday night.
BSFG will continue to advocate vigorously for action on mitigating climate change.
Therefore, on behalf of the Benalla community, we declare that the world faces a climate emergency, and must drastically reduce its greenhouse emissions by 2030, and Benalla must play its part in striving for these emission reductions.
BSFG calls for expressions of interest from representatives of the many key stakeholder groups across the community which will be affected by climate change, to join a community consultation "Climate Change Mitigation" group to develop ideas and plans to lead Benalla towards a net-zero emissions future, preferably by 2030.
To register interest in participating, email BSFG at email@example.com and provide your name, contact details and areas of interest.
Peter Holmes, Benalla
'Council rejects calls to declare climate emergency' ... BSFG President Peter Holmes expresses disappointment with outcome
BSFG President Peter Holmes made a second presentation in support of the Climate Emergency Petition to Benalla Rural City Council, this time to the Benalla Rural City Planning and Development Committee Meeting on Wednesday 29 September via Zoom.
At the completion of the presentations and discussion, Mayor Councillor Danny Claridge moved an Amended Motion. That:
Seconded Cr Punarji Hewa Gunaratne
To watch a recording of the meeting from the beginning of the presentations, go to https://youtu.be/DrG6i63y7bc?t=3832.
We are aware it wasn't easy to watch the presentation of our Climate Emergency petition to Council's Planning and Development meeting live-streamed on Wednesday night. It wasn't easy to locate and was later in the meeting program than anticipated. If you missed it you may be interested in the following:
To watch a recording of Wednesday’s BRC Planning and Development meeting, go to www.benalla.vic.gov.au and on the Homepage, scroll down to “Livestream Council Meeting”, and on that page, click on watch on our Youtube Channel, and finally, select Planning and Development meeting 29th September.
The discussion re the Climate emergency petition starts at the 1hr and 4 minute mark of the recording. You might wish to continue watching through to when the Mayor, Danny Claridge moved a motion (2hr,14 min) and the ensuing 11 minutes of comments by various Councillors about the motion and their views on climate change.
Alternatively, you can watch it on the link below.
Presentation of Climate Emergency Petition to Council's Planning and Development Committee, Wednesday 29 September 2021
BSFG members and supporters - we are asking you to support the presentation of our Climate Emergency Petition to the Planning and Development Committee meeting of Council on Wednesday 29th September.
Due to COVID-19 Restrictions the Planning and Development Committee meeting will be held electronically commencing at the completion of the 6pm Council Meeting and will be broadcast live at www.benalla.vic.gov.au
BSFG and other community leaders will address the Planning and Development Committee via zoom regarding the Climate Emergency Petition. The petition will be item 4 on the agenda of the Planning and Development Committee meeting. You could help by logging in to the livestream (6pm) even if you just keep an eye out and watch the Climate Emergency petition presentation. To log in to the meeting, go to www.benalla.vic.gov.au and on the home page scroll down to “Live stream Council Meetings”.
This will be the culmination of over 18 months of efforts to bring this discussion to a point of definitive action by our community leaders, and your support by “attending” the meeting online will be very important.
Read about the initial presentation of the Climate Emergency Petition to Benalla Rural City Council (24 March 20210 in BSFG's May Newsletter which includes BSFG Presentation to BRC (Peter Holmes), Student Address to Council Meeting (Cheyane Vaughan and Charlie Paterson), Health Effects of Climate Change (Dr Gerard Brownstein).
BSFG President Peter Holmes' presentation to Benalla Rural City Council on the Climate Emergency - 24th March 2021
"CEO, Mayor and Councillors – thank you for opportunity to talk to you
I represent a group of approximately 80 paid up members, and 400 other community members with whom we are in regular contact. All of us, and many more within this community, share a very real concern about the current and future health of our planet. We recognise that there is irrefutable scientific evidence that human induced climate change is occurring, that the data trends on temperature, rainfall, sea levels, ice-cap melts, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, are all heading in the wrong direction, and more significantly, the rates of change are not actually slowing down.
We understand that having recognised the problem, we have an urgent responsibility to do all we can to fix it, because we have a responsibility, not just to our present generation, but to all who follow. We are acutely aware that as the Earth continues to warm, many regions will become uninhabitable, our food production systems will completely break down, our health systems will struggle to cope with the increased number of diseases, and the rate of creature extinctions will accelerate. This is not a future I, and all of us here want to leave for our descendants.
The problem with climate change is, that it appears to be happening so slowly, that we don't all quite see the urgency, unlike the coronavirus pandemic. The reality is however, that in Earth years it is happening rapidly, because over the last 200 years, this is the first time there have been so many humans on the planet, and all of our processes have become so industrialised, and dependent on energy consumption - energy largely produced by burning fossil fuels, releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. What we also need to understand, is that there are critical areas on our planet that control the weather, and a number of these places have possibly already reached their climate tipping points, from which it will be extremely difficult to pull back. Eg. the Arctic region is already 3.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, compared to the average increase across the whole of Earth of 1.2 degrees. Already in the Arctic, permafrost ice has melted, resulting in methane gas escaping into the atmosphere, and this gas is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The solutions are not simple, but not impossible either. We just need the collective political and community will to achieve what is required. Unfortunately, over the past couple of decades, action has been suppressed by various means, so that now we have reached the point where the solutions need to be implemented so much more urgently, than if we had started 20 years ago.
There are 2 major parts to the solution. Firstly, we must stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (we were able to achieve repair of the ozone layer by virtually eliminating the use of hydrofluorocarbons), and we need to do this much sooner than 2050. Climate Scientists are telling us that on all the current evidence available, we need to do this by 2030, if warming is to be kept below 1.5 to 2 degrees. The second part is that we also need to draw down carbon from the atmosphere, because if we don't, the carbon that we have already put up there will continue to magnify the effects for decades to come.
We believe that the solutions are not just the responsibility of government, but all sectors of our communities must take action. Federal and State governments obviously have a role to play in enacting legislation and policies that facilitate solutions, so that businesses and individuals can then more readily make the changes required. But, we as a community and Local Government have just as important a role to play, in agitating and advocating for change, and in leading by example.
So what are we requesting Council to do? Over the past month, I appreciated the opportunity to chat with most of you about climate change, and to ask you to share your thoughts on Council's role in tackling this problem. All who I talked with acknowledged that climate change is real, but not all agreed that the problem was urgent, or that council could do any more than they perceived it was already doing. Some even suggested that to take all the required actions might send Council broke. Our concern is that not to take the required actions now, will certainly put future generations in this community in a very precarious position, as they struggle with livability, health, and economic issues - all of which will be on a much greater scale of difficulty than we presently face.
We acknowledge that Council has already undertaken a number of measures which reduce the municipality's greenhouse gas emissions. Amongst these are the installation of solar systems on Council properties, residential street lighting upgrades (which are currently saving around $50,000 and 250 tonnes of GHG annually), and Council building lighting upgrades, planning being undertaken to introduce EVs to the Council fleet, planning for cabling to be installed in a new carpark for EV charging points, solar battery off-grid at the landfill facility, and we also acknowledge Council's role in approving planning applications for a number of solar farms in the district, which although assisting with reducing greenhouse gases, cannot be directly counted in our own municipality's reductions. All these actions are excellent, but there are many others that we believe will send an even stronger message to the community, and that will actually convey to the community that there is hope for a better future.
BSFG is not going to present you with a complete list here tonight, as we believe that is a function of a community consultation exercise which we hope can be urgently implemented, not just as part of the Council Plan discussions currently underway, but as a dedicated discussion around the topic of climate change action. We think there are a number of advocacy roles that council can undertake, such as facilitating large battery storage installation adjacent to the solar farms, and encouraging new technology industries to Benalla - industries associated with renewable power production and EV sales and maintenance are 2 that come to mind. Other areas we have identified as possible are the further upgrading to LED lighting in all residential street areas of Benalla and surrounding townships (which again will lead to an additional saving of $50,000 and 250 tonnes of GHG per year), signing up to greenpower electricity plans, identifying suitable EV charging station locations in Benalla, and encouraging suppliers to install them now, advocate for electric buses on our town bus routes, develop a much more extensive bike lane route around Benalla to encourage more students to ride to school, and residents to ride to the shops, further upgrades of our landfill to possibly introduce a recycle material Tip-shop, and through council's planning department, encourage developers and builders to establish sustainable communities with cooler green open spaces, and higher star rating buildings which will considerably reduce energy consumption. Some of these suggestions will require an initial financial outlay, but in a short period of time will be paid back in savings, as well as far into the future.
We have come here tonight to respectfully request that Council receives our petition, signed by approximately 600 residents, from all walks of life, across all age groups. These people are not lunatic, scare-mongering Greenies, as some in the media like to portray us - there are farmers, business people, health professionals, shop assistants, students, pensioners, factory workers, educators, and environmentalists all included in this petition. Our request is that Council:
March 24th 2021"