Boroondara Council Climate Campaign

Boroondara Declares a Climate Emergency!

The Boroondara Council has now declared a climate emergency! This is a huge step forward for Boroondara for which the Council deserves wholehearted congratulations.

The motion for the declaration was passed by seven votes to four at the Council meeting on 27 September. Cr Wes Gault moved the motion, with Cr Di Gillies seconding and Crs Jane Addis, Susan Biggar, Victor Franco, Lisa Hollingsworth and Garry Thompson also supporting the declaration. Crs Jim Parke, Felicity Sinfield, Nick Stavrou and Cynthia Watson opposed the declaration. You can watch a recording of the meeting here.

And in more good news, the Council unanimously adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) and an associated 2-year Implementation Plan (IP) at the same meeting. The CAP includes ambitious emissions reduction targets for both Council Operations and the wider Boroondara community. For its own operations, the Council is targeting carbon neutrality by 2022 and a 90% reduction in actual emissions by 2030 (2007/08 base). The community targets are for a 60% reduction in emissions by 2030 (2020 base) and carbon neutrality by 2035. Other very positive aspects of the CAP include a statement that the Council will lead and support the community to reduce emissions and a commitment to embed climate action in Council staff roles and responsibilities.

The CAP and the IP also include many very welcome actions, such as the implementation of a solar PV bulk buy program for the community, developing an EV charging plan for Boroondara, appointing additional staff to audit planting on private property and supporting Environmentally Sustainable private development through an advice program and the planning scheme.

But it’s not all good news

However, both the CAP and the IP lack the detail required to give real confidence that the emissions targets will be delivered. And the community targets are described as ‘aspirational’ only. Other notable problems include weakness on the transition from gas and the lack of community involvement in the implementation and further development of the plans.  But the most significant concern is the Council’s budget for climate action.

Only $400,000 was specifically allocated for implementation of the CAP actions in Council’s original 2021-22 Budget. To their credit, the Council recognised this was insufficient, particularly given that the previous year’s budget included more than twice as much for development of the CAP and implementation of emissions reductions projects ($985,000).  Council have now increased the 2021-22 CAP allowance to $1 million, effectively matching last year’s amount. Despite the increase, the budget for the CAP remains a paltry sum in the context of a total budget of $255 million.

It is true that there are other initiatives in the budget with a positive climate impact, but however climate related expenditure is calculated, it is clear that the amount is not consistent with recognition that we are in a climate emergency.  Foreshadowed expenditure for the next three years (to 2024-25) is also only $1 million per annum. The Council is pursuing a ‘business as usual’ approach, and gives no indication it is serious about funding effective climate action.

We believe that climate funding (excluding transport related expenditure) of at least 2% of the budget would be appropriate i.e. a minimum of $5 million dollars per annum.

What can we do?

We need to keep the pressure on the Council to substantially increase their funding for climate action. Council’s planning for the 2022-23 budget will commence early in 2022. In the lead up to this planning process, please take every opportunity to tell your Councillor that expenditure on climate action must be increased. Contact details for all the Councillors can be found here. Councillors need to keep hearing that current expenditure levels are not good enough.

The Implementation Plan sets out what Council is planning to do in the next 2 years.  Some of the things you could suggest deserve more funding include:

  • Acceleration of the many programs that are to be ‘developed’; for example, rather than just develop the ‘fleet transition plan’, start the transition
  • Developing a program to encourage the community transition from gas and commencing implementation
  • Expanding community education, information and advice programs, including additional staff for community outreach, youth engagement and working with large emitters
  • Undertaking a study of community emissions to provide a baseline against which future emission reductions can be reliably assessed
  • Providing free household energy audits conditional on adoption of some of the recommendations, and giving preference to low income and vulnerable households

At the same time, we need to engage with the Council to help them maximise the effectiveness of what they do. Among other things, this could involve coordinating community and Council events and trying to align community and Council initiatives (e.g. on solar power and batteries). If you would like to be part of this work, please consider joining the Lighter Footprints Local Government Working Group.

A bit of history

The Council’s declaration of a climate emergency and adoption of ambitious emissions targets are at least in part the result of a concerted campaign by the KCCA to demand strong climate action in Boroondara. The campaign started late in 2019 and highlights included:

  • Collecting over 3,900 signatures in major Boroondara shopping centres on a petition calling on the Council to declare a climate emergency and take effective climate action, presented to the Council in March 2020
  • Meeting with Councillors individually to put the case for an emergency declaration
  • Making a deputation to support a declaration to the Council meeting in May 2020; Cr Jane Addis unsuccessfully moved a motion for a declaration at the same meeting (seconded by Cr Coral Ross and supported by Cr Lisa Hollingsworth)
  • Campaigning for the election of climate friendly Councillors in the October 2020 elections, including development and distribution of candidate climate scorecards; six Councillors who scored well on our climate scorecard were elected, creating a supportive majority on Council for the first time
  • Lobbying Councillors and officers for a strong Climate Action Plan and declaration of a climate emergency, including a presentation to Council’s CAP advisory committee, a submission on Council’s 2021-22 budget for climate action and a detailed submission on the draft CAP

What do our Councillors say about the climate?

All candidates were invited to complete our detailed climate questionnaire before the election in October 2020. The questionnaire (which also covered governance issues) was designed to identify the policies and actions which candidates were committed to pursuing if elected.  You can find the full responses of the successful candidates who responded by clicking on their names below. 

Jane Addis (Maling)

Susan Biggar (Riversdale)

Victor Franco (Gardiner)

Wes Gault (Glenferrie)

Di Gillies (Junction)

Garry Thomson (Solway)

Four of the elected Councillors declined to answer the questionnaire, and all of them voted against declaration of a climate emergency:

Jim Parke (Bellevue)

Felicity Sinfield (Cotham)

Nick Stavrou (Studley)

Cynthia Watson (Maranoa)

We need to hold our councillors to account, and make sure they deliver what they promised.  And of course we need to keep up pressure on the recalcitrant councillors to deliver for the community on the climate.

Join our Council Campaign!

If you would like to join our campaign for climate action in Boroondara or help with any of the other work we do, please volunteer here.