Local politicians lead on climate change


Senator Penny Wong
Minister for Climate Change, Senator Penny Wong.  Image: Eddie Misic.


By Angela Dorizas

Local government has a unique opportunity to lead on climate change action, Minster for Climate Change, Senator Penny Wong, has said.

In an address to the Australian Local Government Association national general assembly, Senator Wong praised the work of councils and shires in mitigation and adaptation efforts.

“The decisions we make today will determine how our communities cope in the future as the effects of climate change become more acute, and I know that local government is key to these decisions,” she said.

“Local councils across Australia have shown significant leadership on the issue of climate change, have shown that you understand that climate change should transcend politics and you have rightly demanded cooperative action from all levels of government, all politicians and the community.”

Senator Wong said many in local government had shown “far more foresight and far more responsibility” than federal politicians who continue to argue that climate change is not real.

 “While many politicians in the current climate have buried their heads in the sand the public has demanded more leadership on climate change, so I encourage you to ensure your voices are heard loud and clear on this issue,” she said.

Senator Wong defended the deferral of the emissions trading scheme until 2013 and criticism that the Government had left local councils and communities with uncertainty.

“This Government remains committed to action on climate change and we remain committed to putting a price on carbon through a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), because it remains the cheapest and most effective way to tackle climate change,” she said.

She added that the decision by the Coalition and Greens to vote down the CPRS was “regrettable”.

Senator Wong said interim measures were being introduced to help councils tackle climate change, particularly in regards to information gathering.

She said the Government had commissioned Engineers Australia to develop a new handbook on Australian rainfall and runoff to incorporate advances in hydrology engineering and to account for the impacts of climate change on water resources, infrastructure planning, flood prediction and emergency management.

“The engineers and planners you rely on need up to date information on rainfall and runoff and how this will change over time,” she said.

“The results of this research will provide you with the evidence base you need to incorporate climate change in your decisions.”

Senator Wong announced that in the coming weeks, the Government would release two new resources for local councils, including the pilot Coastal Inundation Visualisation tool to provide higher resolution information on the risks of sea level rise.

In presentations to the national general assembly, representatives from the Coalition and Australia Greens defended their decisions to vote down the ETS.

Leader of the Nationals and shadow minister for local government, Warren Truss, said it was hypocritical for the Government to criticise the Opposition over the defeat of the bill in the Senate.

“Labor has put its emissions trading scheme on the backburner until after 2013,” he told Government News.

“They’ve guaranteed uncertainty for more than three years.

“Our program by comparison is a program of direct action.

“We deliver greater certainty to local government and to the community than Labor’s plan.”

Despite voting against the ETS, Leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown said he was disappointed that Australia did not yet have legislation in place.

“Penny Wong decided to go with the Coalition in getting support for the CPRS instead of going with the Greens and she refused to negotiate the five per cent reduction in greenhouse gases, which we thought was too low,” Senator Brown told Government News.

“She made the fatal mistake.”

Senator Brown appealed to local government to back his policy for a carbon tax based on Professor Ross Garnaut’s model.

“I think it would be good for local government to get behind the carbon tax alternative,” he said.

“Local government should look seriously at what the Greens are putting forward here.”

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