Banyule Declares Climate Emergency!

On Monday 7th October 2019, Banyule City Council declared a Climate Emergency!

Not only that, they released their draft Corporate Emissions Reduction Plan for 2020-23, which details actions to be delivered over the next four years to inform a pathway to carbon neutrality, without the purchase of offsets, by 2028.

The draft plan is up for public comment now, until November 8th. Community feedback is sought and welcomed, through Shaping Banyule. We encourage you to go on and have your say!

This is the first plan of two, with the other being the Community Emissions Reduction Plan, due out early next year. This plan will lay out a roadmap for helping the Banyule community to heavily reduce or eliminate emissions also.

These two plans together represent major steps towards Banyule becoming a sustainable community of the future, with amended water (still to be put online) and waste plans also having been recently established.

It’s worth taking a moment then, to think about how we’ve reached this point, as it’s an inspiring story of successful Council and community communication and collaboration.

The Transition Conference resolution to declare Climate Emergency

On May 5th 2018, the Transition network in Banyule organised and ran the inaugural Transition to a Safe Climate Conference at Macleod College. The conference highlighted the dire situation we are facing as a planet, because of rapid, human-induced climate change. The resolution at the end of this conference, was for us (Transition) to engage with Council so that they would declare a Climate Emergency.

On May 20th 2018, Sustainable Greensborough, one of the many Transition groups in Banyule, held the first local meeting after the conference, and we were delighted to have Councillor Rick Garotti attend. When we raised the resolution of how we might work with Council to declare a Climate Emergency, Cr. Garotti committed to putting the request to his fellow Councillors as a motion, which would trigger a report to be written. Further actions could then be taken, flowing on from the report.

Collaborating with Banyule Council

A small Council Liaison Working Group was formed at the Conference to pursue the Climate Emergency Declaration with Council, and was supported in this by CACE (Council Action in the Climate Emergency) over several meetings, though members of this group ultimately decided to pursue different approaches. The Banyule Clean Energy Group (BCEG) also formed after the 2018 Conference, and they contributed their passion and expertise on the issue of our energy policy and the opportunities there.

Over a few weeks, Council, Transition and BCEG group members discussed and debated the motion details, and on June 25th 2018, it was tabled and passed unanimously! The motion was supported by the seven Transition groups in Banyule and BCEG, with four speakers allowed to address Council on the motion. The public gallery was packed out with residents who came to show their support.

With the motion being passed unanimously, it paved the way for a radically new approach to dealing with climate change in Banyule. Many of the Councillors at the meeting gave impassioned speeches in support of the motion and for more robust action in Banyule in dealing with Climate Change.

During the next six months, there were many hours of meetings and conversations with the then-Mayor Mark DiPasquale, all the Councillors but Councillors Garotti and Peter Castaldo in particular, and within the Transition groups (in excess of 80 hours), and documents written (over 20), to facilitate Council and Transition/BCEG input into the process.

The team who was directly liaising with Council took a deliberately consultative and pragmatic approach to the discussions, with a lot of ‘deep listening’ so that we understood where Council was, and what the barriers to change were. Through this iterative process, we arrived at a place that mostly satisfied all parties. We brought all parties along with us and instilled a sense of optimism into the process.

The result of all this dedication and collaborating was a report and set of resolutions that set up a pathway for new policies and procedures to be written, which put sustainability at the core of what Council does. It also set out a determination that Council would be carbon neutral by 2028 without the purchase of carbon offsets, and allocated $5 million towards the required changes. On December 10th 2018, the report and its resolutions were again unanimously adopted.

Ready, set, go!

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of activity across Banyule City Council, as the environment team and other pivotal people within the organisation have been working hard hiring for several new positions, setting up a working group with people from all main decision-making branches, and instituting Council-wide engagement to set about investigating the practical steps it needs to take to achieve the goals and recommendations set out in the report, while continuing to engage with the Transition groups and BCEG.

On Sunday May 26th 2019, the second Transition to a Safe Climate Conference was held. This conference was run entirely by volunteers and through ticket sales, and was attended by nearly 100 people. It showcased the successes that we had achieved and highlighted the positive things happening in our community, while allowing us to discuss our thoughts about the future we wanted to see. It was confirmed that participants still wished to see a Climate Emergency declared in Banyule.

So, when Cr. Tom Melican and Cr. Castaldo raised the Climate Emergency Declaration on Monday 7th October 2019, and it was passed, it was the culmination of a huge amount of work from the Banyule community and Council, to reach the point that we’re at now. It’s a great example of how Council and community can work in partnership to achieve a wonderful outcome.

Reflections on the process

In just 17 months, we have gone from a Council with no clear, strategic plans to deal with climate change, to one which is now well ahead with its ambition to transform into a carbon-neutral council within the next decade that is focused on being a leading sustainability example, while bringing the community along with it!

Not only have they declared Climate Emergency on behalf of Banyule, they already have policies, plans and culture change in place, being enacted as you read this, which will make Banyule one of the most proactive municipalities in Australia. That’s an amazing effort on the part of everyone involved, and it should be acknowledged and celebrated.

We also acknowledge all the hard work from Banyule’s active and vibrant environment groups and volunteers over the past decades, and the support from the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) and other relevant groups, who have helped pave the way for this action to happen. It’s everyone working together over time that builds the momentum.

In making this declaration, we have joined an international movement that started in Australia in 2016, which has seen over 60 Australian jurisdictions declare a climate emergency, representing roughly 6 million people, or around a quarter of Australia’s population (as of October 2019). Worldwide, the figure is 1,120 jurisdictions in 20 countries, covering roughly 285 million people!

The Transition groups in Banyule are also part of the Transition Towns movement, which started in the UK in 2006 and is worldwide too. Transition Towns aim to run locally based initiatives that increase community resilience and self-sufficiency to reduce the effects of peak oil and climate change. The last 17 months provide a positive example of the Transition model in action, and demonstrate our approach of redesigning and rebuilding our world, locally and globally, together!

Big thanks to all, and let’s keep creating the future we want to see!

Banyule Council’s commitment to, and enthusiasm for, becoming an exemplary sustainable municipality is to be commended and supported. A big thank you goes out to all the Councillors at Banyule Council, to the Council staff and to all the volunteers in the Transition network and BCEG who gave their time, expertise and effort to this process. It really is a team effort, and we should all give ourselves a pat on the back!

It is on all of us now, as a community, to continue to engage with our Council, to come together, and implement the changes we need to, so that we have a thriving, resilient community into the future.