Caldera Environment Centre submission to Tweed Shire Council on the Draft Climate Change Policy – Net Zero 2030

The Caldera Environment Centre (CEC) strongly supports the Draft Climate Change Policy – Net Zero 2030. This draft policy builds on the framework of the Tweed Shire Council Community Strategic Plan 2017-2027 – in particular regarding its goals of decreasing the carbon footprint of the Tweed Shire, progressing toward 100% self sufficiency in renewable energy and preparing for climate change through adaptation and mitigation. 

In the face of the predicted dramatic impacts of climate change (see the 2018 report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Council clearly has responsibility to work both within its own structures and within the community to prepare to manage this unprecedented level of forthcoming change and to take a precautionary approach. Some of these changes are already observable. The changes predicted include hotter temperatures and for longer periods of time, increased frequency and intensity of bushfires, more storms and floods, decreased predictability and reliability of rainfall and increased drought, rise in sea levels and further loss of already fast decreasing biodiversity levels (current threat involves over a million species). These changes will definitely impact local community health, agriculture and other economic spheres (e.g. tourism), emergency response capability, and management of the increasing threat to the biodiversity and integrity of the natural environment. 

CEC strongly supports the draft policy guiding principle of a progressive and scientifically informed response to mitigate and adapt to these effects of climate change. Regarding the stated guiding principle of maintaining a sustainable balance between economic, social and environmental outcomes, it will be essential however, that short term economic goals do not compromise longer term climate change adaptation and mitigation.  

The Tweed Shire is in the third most biodiverse area in Australia and includes areas with world heritage status. At this time of over a million species at risk of extinction and a billion animals lost in the recent fires, we hold huge responsibility to the world, to Australia and to our local community to protecting our environment – one of the last bastions of significant native environment and its fauna and flora in Australia, and indeed in the world.  The Caldera Environment Centre is encouraged that protection of our native species and globally significant environment is clearly included in the Draft Policy. In the Climate Change Action Plan that is proposed we would like to see this aspect given highest priority and significant new financial allocation to achieve this goal.

We also strongly support the goal of at least 2030 net zero emissions for Council operations and of facilitation of similar community emissions goals. CEC supports all the stated priorities in the Draft Policy including preparation of a Climate Change Action Plan, zero emissions and waste reduction initiatives (which will also be models for the whole community), jointly building strategy with all stakeholders at community, state and federal level), providing community education and support, advocating for proactive state legislation and actively restoring, as well as protecting, the natural environment. The Coronavirus 19 has shown that faced with the immediate danger of an epidemic we can adapt despite the challenges, including economic challenges, involved. If we are to save human society as we know it from the ravages of climate change we must again adapt quickly, decisively and with uncompromising and positive forward planning. 

Such positive adaptation is certainly possible and in the Draft Policy is viewed as an economic and social opportunity. Over 500 corporations have already taken a lead like this and have adopted a target of zero emissions by 2030 (see So have large institutions such as The National Farmers Federation, Melbourne Water, Monash University and Meat and Livestock Australia. 

While all levels of government need to take on at least this target of zero emissions by 2030, local Councils are particularly well placed to make a much needed difference because they own significant infrastructure and are embedded in and influence local communities. The goal of zero emissions by 2030 is also clearly achievable. Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane councils are already carbon neutral in their own operations and Darwin is aiming for 2020 for its operations. 

This draft Tweed Shire Council policy, if adopted and implemented, will begin make the shire a regional leader in positive adaptation to climate change. Also our children and children throughout the world will thank us.