THE Bass Coast Shire Council, to a full house, voted to declare a ‘climate emergency’ at last week’s meeting.
The council chamber was so full that supporters of the Bass Coast Climate Action Network (BCCAN) had to either stand or sit on the floor to hear whether the councillors would vote in favour of Cr Michael Whelan’s notice of motion “to treat climate change as an emergency”.
“We have an obligation, and the cost of inaction fast outlays the cost of action,” said Cr Whelan.
“The environment should be considered just the same as finance,” said Cr Whelan.
The motion was carried by seven votes to nil, with Cr Les Larke and Cr Julian Brown abstaining from the vote.
Councillors witnessed a standing ovation with the audience applauding their decision.
Recognising that climate change poses serious risk to Bass Coast tells the community that from now on, all environmental impacts will be considered by the shire.
Council will also develop a Bass Coast Climate Change Action Plan 2020-30.
The plan will set out how Bass Coast Shire can more effectively contribute to climate change mitigation and be more resilient and well adapted to the effects of a changing climate.
Cr Whelan put forward the motion and spoke eloquently. His motion was second by Cr Pamela Rothfield who too spoke passionately on the issue, acknowledging the voices of the community.
Deputy Mayor, Cr Bruce Kent, said: “The community spoke loud enough for it to be heard.”
Cr Clare Le Serve who was too in favour of the motion.
“To do nothing would be irresponsible,” said Cr Le Serve.
During the council meeting, BCCAN member Michael Nugent presented council with a petition that had more than 1100 signatures.
The petition identified that the shire is vulnerable to sea level rise and greater climate variability leading to more intense disaster events, including storms, flooding and bushfire.
“This is a huge step forward for climate action in Bass Coast, the supporters certainly made their presence felt in the gallery tonight,” said Michael.
The 2020-30 plan will also include a target of zero net emissions by 2030 across council operations as well as the wider community.
Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Brett Tessari, said while council’s Natural Environment Strategy, adopted in 2016, recognises climate change, this declaration is a step further.
“The use of the term ‘emergency’ is a way of signalling the need to go far beyond business as usual,” Cr Tessari said.
“This declaration puts us in line with 35 other local governments in Australia who have also formally acknowledged the ongoing threat of climate change.”