Local Governments target climate action

Australian councils are more now more active than ever in delivering climate action, with many also increased their emissions reduction targets.

In its Australian Local Government Climate Review 2021, ICLEI Oceania – Local Governments for Sustainability, said 100 Australian councils have now declared a climate emergency, joining 1800 others around the world.

Thirty-one local governments are signatories of the Global Covenant of Mayors, joining a global network of 10,500 local governments working to reduce emissions at the local level.

The 2021 Review is clear on the urgency to collaborate with all levels of government to accelerate local and regional action at the scale and pace needed to keep global temperature rise within a 1.5°C increase of pre-industrial temperatures.

83% of respondents reported that climate change has already impacted their local community or council operations. Impacts being experienced included increased risk of bushfires, increased flooding, record high temperatures and coastal erosion. The impacts of these climate change events on the local economy, namely agriculture and tourism, were also noted.

These responses signal that climate change is not a future concern for councils and their communities, but rather an immediate one.

While the majority of councils reported experiencing climate change impacts, only 10% felt that the council or the community was well-prepared to respond to these impacts. This is a serious discrepancy and highlights the lack of preparedness to respond to climate impacts.

The 2021 Review demonstrates the local understanding of the scale of the response required, the level of ambition throughout the country and the scope of climate action already undertaken by Australian councils and communities. Notably:

· 73% of responding councils have set or are planning ambitious corporate or operational emissions reduction targets.

· 80% of responding councils have set or are investigating developing community-wide emissions reductions targets.

· Almost a third of councils reported having a fossil fuel divestment commitment or intended to implement a commitment shortly.

· 93% of the community respondents are collaborating with their local council.

If all of the targets set by Australian local governments were met, then an incredible 88,200 kt CO2e emissions would be reduced.

These commitments would bring Australia 96% of the way to meet its current target of 28% reduction by 2030. The huge emissions reduction potential and ambition demonstrated by councils would be secured and delivered faster if there was commensurate support and ambition from the Federal Government.

The report is available here.

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