Acting on climate change in Moonee Valley

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From the safety of Moonee Valley, most of us have watched the fires consuming Australian bushland, towns and wildlife with horror and a sense of helplessness. Where we can, we’ve donated to help supply food, water, fire equipment and animal care. There are some excellent online summaries of ways we can help.

Many of us are livid that our federal government has been derelict in its duty to prepare for catastrophic fires and act sooner on climate change. Explicit warnings about the fire risk, heightened in Australia by drought, dry fuel, rising temperatures and scorched earth, have been publicly available for over a decade. Many of us have seen the extract from the Garnaut Climate Change Review that has been circulating on social media:garnaut-.jpg

I’ve been frustrated for many years by Moonee Valley’s stance on climate action. There have been excellent reports and planning at the officer level in the departments focused on our environment and waste. MV2040 also prioritises our ‘green city’ and there has been a plan to increase our green canopy. The Council also took the bold step last October of declaring and acknowledging that we face a climate emergency.

However, these plans are generally inadequately funded and don’t clear articulate how we are going to reduce community emissions in Moonee Valley.

We can do more in terms of actual changes to the way we use energy and reduce greenhouse emissions here in our small part of the world.

This year on the MVBlog, I will be prioritising the documentation of the ways in which we are addressing climate change in Moonee Valley. We have over 100,000 people in our municipality and we can do our best to reduce our contributions to the world’s rising temperatures.

This post is a brief summary of where we’re at currently. Over the coming weeks and year, I’ll be reporting on the blog as often as possible about the actions being taken in Moonee Valley – at the Council and community level – to address climate change.

Here are some of the key features of MVCC’s current actions on climate change.

MV2040

The MV2040 strategy was approved by MVCC in 2018 and sets out the priorities and plans for the municipality for the next 20 years. It states:

“We acknowledge that climate change is the biggest threat to our community and accordingly it is expected to become the highest priority. We acknowledge a business-as- usual-approach to problem solving will not be sufficient to solve the challenges brought forward by climate change … Our commitment is to ensure all programs, services and infrastructure are delivered and operated to achieve environmental sustainability and resilience.”

The report also states that MVCC has already reduced emissions and is “on track to achieve zero net emissions in our operations by 2020.”

“Our city has responded to the major challenge of adapting to a changing climate; we have dramatically reduced our carbon emissions, urban heat and flood risk. We have extended our use of renewable technologies. We have clean air, water and soil, diverse vegetation and wildlife, creating a well-functioning urban ecosystem that is resilient to the major changes in our climate.”

The goals set out by MV2040 are as follows – note that the target in this section of the document is “zero net emissions for our community and to reduce emissions from Council operations by 95% by 2040” from the base measurement in 2007:

Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 12.58.46 pm

Strategic directions 14, 15 and 16 are focused on water, waste and climate adaptation.

In 2018, MVCC released a draft Moonee Valley 2040 Action Plan – Draft Zero Carbon City. I downloaded this document in May 2018. I’ve been advised the document has since been collated with other plans into an MV2040 Green Action Plan that aligns the actions in the four draft plans with actions in MV2040. The Draft MV2040 Green Action Plan will be publicly available once it goes to Council for endorsement early this year.

This post is based on the material in in the 2018 draft Council plan and will be updated when the new version is released.

In its 2018 Moonee Valley 2040 Action Plan – Draft Zero Carbon City, the following targets are outlined.

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The 2018 plan states that in 2016, Moonee Valley produced 1.3 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions, with only 9,500 tonnes produced by Council itself (0.7% of all MV emissions).

So there are two separate sources of emissions measured for the purposes of Council’s report: community and Council emissions.

Council (corporate emissions)

The 2018 draft plan states that in the benchmark year of 2007, Council produced 15,650 tonnes of carbon. (I’ve been advised that Council’s greenhouse data is measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e). This measure compares the emissions from various greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) – based upon their global warming potential.)

The 2018 draft plan states that by upgrading public lighting, improving the fleet of cars, installing solar panels and improving every efficiency in buildings, Council has reduced its emission by 40% to 9,500 tonnes.

The 2018 draft plan suggests the goal of zero net emissions from Council “will be achieved by a combination of reducing corporate emissions and the purchase of carbon offsets” and suggests that carbon offsets have been purchased for the remaining 9,500 tonnes of emissions.

Council has stated it is still pursuing the procurement of renewable energy to reduce reliance on offsets this includes investing directly in large-scale renewable energy generation or entering into a power purchasing agreement (PPA) with a renewable energy provider. It’s not clear whether this alone will be sufficient to reach the goal of reducing emissions by 95% by 2040.

Community emissions

Ninety-nine percent of emissions in Moonee Valley are produced by the community. Here’s the breakdown according to the report:

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That means that over half of the emissions in Moonee Valley come from home or non-residential use of non-renewable energy from the grid (I’m not exactly sure of the source of MVCC’s data, but I am assuming it is correct for now – although if anyone wants to challenge this, please let me know!).

The 2018 draft plan then sets out 29 actions to work towards the achievement of zero net emissions from the community by 2040. Again, the ‘zero net emissions’ target includes the purchase of carbon offsets. There is no target set for the reduction of community emissions.

Here’s the 2018 draft plan with the 29 actions for achieving zero net emissions for our community: Draft Zero Carbon City Plan – accessible version

As noted above, this plan will be superseded with an all encompassing MV2040 Green Action Plan that will be released publicly this year.

One of the key concerns I have with the 2018 draft plan is that nearly every action is listed as being funded ‘within existing resources’ and, frankly, it just does not seem feasible to make the reductions needed without investing additional funding. Which brings me to the next point – the Budget.

Budget

On 11 June 2019, the 2019/2020 Budget was debated and voted on by Council. The budget discussion was largely focused on the funding for the new Flemington Community Centre, but amidst that debate I asked the following question:

What measures are funded in the 2019/20 budget to address climate change?

I received the following answer which is documented in the meeting minutes.

“Council has multiple initiatives in the 2019/20 Budget to address climate change, among those initiatives are, investigating the opportunity to participate in a tender to procure 100 per cent renewable electricity for Council’s operations through a Power Purchase Agreement with other Victorian Councils. This procurement would reduce Council’s greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by nearly 75 per cent, (Included in the Operating Budget).

Energy efficiency improvements to Council buildings – installation of variable speed drives, lighting upgrades to LED, installation of energy monitoring systems, double glazing, installation of solar pv on buildings and hot water system upgrades to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. (In Capital Works Budget 4008 -energy efficiency/greenhouse gas reduction works for Council owned and operated buildings).

Increased tree plantings in parks, reserves and on footpaths help increase tree canopy cover across the municipality and support Council’s MV2040 target of 30 per cent tree canopy cover by 2040, (included in the Operating Budget).”

These actions are mainly addressing Council’s own corporate emissions, which are less than 1% of Moonee Valley’s overall emissions. The tree planting is a welcome measure – provided the trees are well watered during periods of drought – but also does not address the community’s own emission reduction.

In short, the goal of achieving zero net carbon emission from the community by 2040 appears to be funded through ‘existing resources’ only. The actions and funding seem grossly inadequate to achieve the stated goal – which, again, does not specify a reduction in the quantum of emissions by the Moonee Valley community.

Declaration of Climate Emergency

On 8 October, Council ‘declared and acknowledged the climate emergency’ facing all of us. This was a welcome step!

However, in doing so, the Council committed only to implementing the plans it had already set out as part of MV2040, discussed above. The unanimously approved motion reads:

Council acknowledges the Environment Portfolio Advisory Committee’s recommendation to Council to declare and acknowledge the climate emergency on the terms set out below;

      1. Acknowledge the achievements of the Council in addressing issues related to climate change to date;
      2. Agree that the implementation of MV2040 specifically the Green Action Plan will form the basis of Council’s response to the climate emergency;
      3. Note that Council’s MV2040 vision statement includes that “Our neighbourhoods are beautiful, sustainable and hold strong community connections which enable citizens and the environment to be healthy and resilient”;Declare and acknowledge the climate emergency and, in doing so:
      4. Note this declaration will enable Council to publicly demonstrate the leadership position that its past, current and future strategic work has delivered and will deliver and to advocate to its community and other levels of government for a coordinated response to the issue of climate change.

Council’s draft 2018 action plan notes that, while Council’s own emissions have been reduced by 40%, community emissions constitute 99% of our emissions and we have invested no extra funding to meet the goal of offsetting, let alone reducing, these emissions.

Over the next few years, there is an urgent need for all of us to do what we can to reduce our greenhouse (mainly carbon) emissions. There are increasing numbers of community members keen to do this, and some have joined the Moonee Valley Sustainability group established by Logan Shield and Teresa Day. You can find out more here.

In the coming weeks, I’ll drill down further into the actions set out in the Zero Carbon Action Plan and see what sort of opportunities there are for advocacy for funding in the lead up to the 2020/2021 MVCC Budget.

Thanks for reading this far! And for caring about action on climate change in Moonee Valley.

Personal note

As some of you know, I was formerly a Greens councillor at MVCC (2007-2010). I subsequently worked for Adam Bandt (2010-2013), but resigned from the Greens in 2013 (sadly an early whistleblower on the poor treatment some members have received from within the party ranks).

I worked for Labor’s Jennifer Kanis in 2014 – helping in the successful fight against the East West Link. And have been actively engaged in community groups since then independent of any political party.

I am telling you this as background to the way in which I approach issues of climate change in our ‘hood. I’ve been concerned about climate change since 2006 when I joined the Greens and have tried, and failed, to change our approach through the Greens.

I’m committed to doing what I can to act on climate change, and to help drive wider community action. I’m motivated by a deep concern for our global ecosystem and our children and future inhabitants of our planet.

Our family have installed a 3.2KWh solar panel system with a Tesla battery. We are not fully self-sufficient, but with another 12 panels (doubling our solar energy generation) we hope to remove ourselves from relying on any energy from the grid and give back solar energy when we can. I know some people in our area have been prevented from installing panels because of heritage planning rules.

We recently purchased an electric car and are learning about how to best charge the car with renewable energy without three-phase power which we have been told we can’t install!

If you’re keen to see how our house functions (we are not zero emitters but try to do what we can) you’re very welcome to make contact.

4 thoughts on “Acting on climate change in Moonee Valley

  1. Thanks for that Rose. Thats really insightful. I hadnt realised that the coumcil emissions are so low in comparison to residents & businesses. We certainly have alot of work to do to get these down! Im hoping to get things moving through Moonee Valley Sustainability. We have three areas of focus, emission reduction, carbon drawdown and community circular economy. Out of all of these emission reduction is the hardest to pinpoint and work out action. We’re focussing on energy efficiency and renewable energy on our FB discussion forum this month, so hopefully that will start conversations for change.

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    • Thanks Peter. A good point! I’m hoping there will be a chance for us to raise ideas like this when the Draft Green Action Plan is released this year – hopefully soon. Rose

      Like

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