By Kirra Grimes

FOLLOWING last year’s declaration of a climate emergency, Bass Coast Shire Council has released its $200,000 Climate Change Action Plan, urging the community to get on board a campaign for zero net emissions by 2030.

The first of its kind plan, endorsed at the August council meeting, outlines actions individuals, community groups, businesses, the agricultural sector and council can undertake to achieve the objective of zero net emissions over the next 10 years and to ensure a “climate resilient community”.

In 2019, Bass Coast’s greenhouse gas emissions were an estimated 675,300 tonnes of CO2-e, with significantly higher per capita emissions from agriculture and transport than the rest of Victoria.

Examples of community actions designed to bring those emissions down include:

*Buying less, recycling and reusing more to achieve zero waste.

*Buying local, supporting sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

*Reducing energy use by switching to all-electric and zero carbon energy.

*Improving homes to make them sustainable and climate resilient.

*Switching to more sustainable transport like walking, cycling, ride sharing and electric vehicles.

*Supporting the natural environment by planting gardens.

*Connecting with, supporting and sharing information with networks of friends, neighbours, colleagues and family.

*Advocating for stronger climate change action by state and federal governments.

The plan also includes timeframes and analysis of the economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits of specific actions.

Acknowledging that some people will not be ready to make major changes straight away, council’s General Manager Resilient Communities Jodi Kennedy emphasised that the plan provided scope for people to identify and prioritise their actions based on individual needs and situations.

Voicing his support for the plan, Island Ward Cr Michael Whelan stressed that while it was intended to encourage all community members to play their part, ultimately council “can’t tell people what to do”.

“Businesses, households and the rest, they’ll make their decisions. We hope they’ll go that way and council’s role is to lead and perhaps cajole people to adopt low emissions strategies and also to adapt to what’s going to be a challenging environment in the future.

“It’s the early adopters that lead and make the big gains,” he said.

Council paid Melbourne firm Hip V Hype $200,000 out of its 2018/19 budget surplus to develop the plan, and last week allocated $500,000 in the 2020/21 budget to implementing actions arising out of the plan.

Further funding for implementation will have to be factored into future budgets, as well as into council’s long-term financial plan.

Bunurong Ward Cr Julian Brown criticised the plan for its lack of financial incentives to support businesses in the transition to a low carbon economy.

Cr Whelan agreed council must ensure any implementation strategy “takes everyone with it”.

“People who are renters, people who can’t afford to put solar on their roof, we need to look after them. The people who can’t afford to put insulation in their house, we need to find programs and work with the state government to make sure we can do that,” he said.

The Bass Coast Climate Action Network (BCCAN) was instrumental in the development of the plan, with several of its members appointed to council’s Community Reference Group, following their successful push for a climate emergency declaration in August 2019.

They’ve congratulated council on the “landmark” decision, calling the net zero emissions target “ambitious” but “totally doable,” and voicing full faith that “this plan will get us there”.

BCCAN members and Wonthaggi Secondary College Year 12 students Isabel Rooks and Callum Bugbird said the 2030 target “shows council’s concern for our shire’s long-term future,” and backing that target up with an action plan would “ensure we make it”.

“The action plan will help protect our native flora and fauna, like the penguins and their coastal habitat,” Callum said.

“Protecting those will help keep business booming in Bass Coast, where tourism is a major industry.”

Fellow BCCAN members Michael Nugent, Naomi Coleman, and Bhavani Rooks called the plan “the roadmap we need to face what the climate has in store for us all,” and commended council for “fully involving the community in its development”.

“A year ago, we asked council for leadership in the face of inaction from other levels of government; this plan delivers that leadership,” Michael said.

“They really listened to all the feedback and constantly adapted, and improved, the plan to reflect it,” Naomi said.

Read it here.