Local government has enormous capability to progress the transition to a low carbon built environment and economy, as the upcoming Cities Power Partnership Summit in Kiama, NSW will showcase.
The Summit has been curated by the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership team, and will bring together international and national experts to explore strategies and success stories on reducing carbon emissions.
The theme is “Accelerating local action”, underlining the role of local leadership and the support for real action on climate change at the grassroots level.
“This is our big chance to break through,” Climate Council chief councillor Tim Flannery says.
“Community energy groups, climate experts and council members are coming together at the inaugural Cities Power Partnership Summit to inspire the next big wave of clean energy action.”
The speakers, panel discussions, case study presentations and Climate Media Centre media training workshop will address four action areas that members of the Cities Power Partnership have pledged action on: renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, and working together for influence.
International keynote speaker, R. Rex Parris, mayor of City of Lancaster in California, has led the city’s charge towards carbon neutrality.
As a criminal lawyer by profession, he told The Fifth Estate one of his areas of expertise is understanding how to frame an argument and prime an audience.
In achieving buy-in from his local constituency on reducing emissions, he says he starts with the premise that climate disruption is happening, and that it is the greatest threat humans are facing as a species.
He never uses the term “climate change”, he says, because he is framing the discussion for people that are “suspicious of any kind of change”.
“Conservatives are uncomfortable with change.”
What they are comfortable with is the concept of public safety, something he has a demonstrated track record of dealing with while mayor.
“The community understands I have an absolute priority for public safety,” he says.
The other solid argument that works with conservatives is the economic benefits of a low-carbon transition.
Since he became mayor, unemployment has dropped in the city from 24 per cent to around three per cent, he says.
Initiatives that have generated jobs include proactively recruiting a Chinese electric bus manufacturer to establish a manufacturing operation in the city, and support for a solar power industry that is now employing large numbers of locals.
He also led a project to have the first affordable net-zero home designed and built in the city, and successfully negotiated for the council to take over ownership of streetlights in order to quickly retrofit them to an LED smart lighting system with centralised control.
“The targets of the Paris Accord are not that difficult to reach,” he says.
However, this is a crisis and urgent action is required. Even the Paris targets are potentially not enough to save us, he says.
“Last time there was that much CO2 in the atmosphere there were alligators in Canada.
“The crisis never been greater but I’m hopeful.”
He says the policy shifts at the US federal level are not necessarily going to derail efforts in the US to reduce emissions.
“This isn’t going to be solved at Washington – it will be solved at local level.”
The Summit will also address some of the crucial practical aspects of the pathway to local emissions reductions.
For example, the process of establishing carbon reduction or carbon neutral targets will be covered in a panel discussion featuring City of Sydney manager carbon strategy Nik Midlam; Bega Valley Council economic development manager Daniel Murphy; and Clean Energy for Eternity founder Dr Matthew Nott.
Dr Sonia Marshall, strategic policy officer, environment and sustainability at Sunshine Coast Council, will present on renewable energy, and how the council’s 25-year environment and liveability strategy underpinned the development of a 15 megawatt solar farm and a range of demand-side initiatives.
City of Gosnell Switch Your Thinking coordinator Julie McMinnwill present a case study on the council’s energy efficiency and emissions mitigation program across metropolitan Perth.
The council has been working with 16 other local governments, 1.1 million residents, 90,900 businesses and 300 schools to facilitate projects including early adoption of green building practices, revolving energy funds, demand response alerts, negotiation of community purchase incentives and innovative residential trials.
The local keynote speaker on day two of the Summit will be ACT minister for climate change and sustainability Shane Rattenbury. He will be highlighting the role of local government action and COAG, as well as giving an update on the National Energy Guarantee and the ACT’s own progress towards its 100 per cent renewable energy target and carbon neutral 2050 goal.
On the topic of carbon neutrality, Chris Wilson from Pangolin Associates will explore how local governments can participate in the voluntary carbon market, using Brisbane City Council as a case study.
Other topics on the program include low carbon project financing options, electric vehicle fleets and charging infrastructure, and the legal liabilities councils may face from climate risks.
The Climate Council expects the Summit to be a valuable learning and networking opportunity not only for those in local government, but also urban planners, urban designers, sustainability sector practitioners, state and federal government agencies, and energy and asset managers.
The Summit will also feature the inaugural Cities Power Partner awards ceremony on the evening of Thursday 18 October. The awards will showcase excellence in renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport and community advocacy at the practitioner level, as well as individual champion awards.
The Summit is being held at The Pavilion at Kiama on the NSW South Coast on 18-19 October. See full details of the program and how to register your attendance .